Starbucks Stores In Kroger Are Changing In A Major Way

Correction 9/20/22: A previous version of this article stated these changes would also apply to Starbucks-licensed shops in Target stores. A Starbucks representative informed Tasting Table there are currently no plans to bring mobile ordering to Target cafe locations.

Starbucks is on the move — again. With numerous company announcements to date in 2022, including store closures in major cities, the resignation (again) of CEO Howard Schultz, NFT offerings, and the implementation of new employee incentive programs, Starbucks seldom rests on its lofty laurels. This most recent revelation shows the winds of change are still blowing – this time directly in the path of loyal customers.

While Starbucks owns almost 9000 company-operated stores in the USA alone, per Statista, that's nowhere near its total domestic reach. Those green-and-white mermaid logos tucked into corners and side bars of major retail and grocery stores represent 6500 Starbucks-licensed venues in the United States, rivaling the number of standalone coffee shops run entirely by the coffee behemoth. Think Kroger, Hy-Vee, Publix, gas stations, hotels, hospitals, airports, and thousands more providing the Starbucks experience while you shop, travel, fuel up, and go about daily life.

Changes are on the way for those licensed retailers in the U.S. and North America as of summer 2022. Here's what loyal customers can expect from enhanced services at Starbucks' licensed locations.

Loyalty pays

Like most food-related loyalty programs, the announced enhancements for Starbucks-licensed coffee shops revolve around points (or Stars) and apps. With a nod to the growing popularity of loyalty rewards and mobile ordering during the COVID pandemic, Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer announced plans on September 13 to address inconsistencies of those customer benefits at licensee locations, notes TheStreet. The company seeks to equalize the coffee experience for consumers, regardless of where they sip and savor their brew.

To date, most businesses licensed to serve Starbucks coffees, food, and retail gear have not been privy to the full rewards program embraced by one in 10 U.S. adults, per Business Insider. Those days are almost over, thanks to the Starbucks Connect program bringing parity to all locations. Specifically, customers will soon be able to redeem accumulated rewards points and order ahead via the Starbucks app when picking up coffee and treats inside Kroger and similar retail stores. That's a big boon for many consumers; for example, air travelers pushed for time can soon whip out their smartphones, order and pay via the Starbucks app, and swoop up java jolts before maneuvering major city airports.

Roughly 1400 licensees in North America had already implemented the Starbucks Connect changes prior to the expansion announcement, and those 1400 retailers alone comprised about 12% of overall sales in Q3 of 2022, according to Brewer. The upcoming impact from thousands more licensed venues could be significant.