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starbucksStarbucks said today that its new mobile ordering service, which allows people to buy a cup of coffee without having to stand in line, will expand to 650 cafes across the Northwest next week.

Starbucks says the service, which it calls Order & Pay, will be available across Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska starting Tuesday, March 17. Obviously, that four-state area also includes Seattle, the company’s hometown.

For the past three months, Starbucks has been piloting the service in Portland, where it launched 150 cafes in December.

The regional expansion will arrive the day before the company’s annual shareholders meeting next week, where Order & Pay will likely be one of Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz’s main talking points.

Starbucks order aheadThe service is a prime example of how Starbucks continues to remain on the cutting edge, especially when it comes to retailers using mobile phones for commerce. It also serves a very practical purpose that should appeal to shareholders: Increasing sales. Since employees will spend spend less time taking orders, in theory, they will be able to spend more time fulfilling orders, which in turn, can lead to more sales at each store.

A Starbucks spokeswoman declined to provide stats on the pilot launch in Portland, since it has only been live for three months. “All I’m able to provide is that we’ve met or exceeded all of our expectations for Portland,” she added.

In an interview with GeekWire during the Portland launch, Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman called Order & Pay “game changing” for Starbucks. “We hope this will give us a throughput increase as much or more as anything we’ve done in the past,” he said.

Next week’s launch will primarily include company-operated stores, meaning that some licensed stores found in grocery stores and airports will not be included. Starbucks expects those stores to eventually be added, and for the service to be nationwide by the end of the year. For now, mobile ordering is limited to iPhone users, but an Android version is expected out soon, as well.

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