Starbucks Brews Up Digital Transformation With Microsoft Azure

Bangkok, Thailand - May 22, 2018 : "Midnight mocha frappe" with whipped cream & powder coffee on brown table & Starbucks coffee sign.

Starbucks announced its partnership with Microsoft recently to help create exceptional customer experience for the coffee chain- in the cloud and in the stores so as to craft the perfect coffee experience. The partnership with Microsoft is helping Starbucks brew up rapid innovation across its 13,000+ stores in the United States.

With the help of Microsoft, Starbucks is introducing the Starbucks Production Controller, an intelligent tool for food and beverage sequencing for mobile orders as well as in-store, so that the customers’ orders are ready real time. 

“SPC does intelligent food and beverage sequencing for customers in line as well as mobile orders,” Gerri Martin-Flickinger, the company’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, who joined Starbucks in 2015. She informed that the company developed SPC as proprietary tech, because the sequencing of our food has a lot to do with the production capacity in the store and the recipes of the item. For example, if SPC knows that there’s capacity available in the warming ovens but no capacity on the coffee machine, it will sequence intelligently so that customer’s orders are ready holistically – you get a hot coffee and you get hot food.

Because so much of the experience is the handcrafted products, the intelligence needed to do that well is a bit more sophisticated than you might think if you casually look at the opportunity.

This solution is powered by Azure services including IoT HubService FabricApp ServiceCosmos DBService BusWindows 10 IoT, Azure Machine Learning, Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight and Operations Management Suite (OMS). Starbucks now uses more than 50 of the company’s Azure cloud services—along with other tools such as Power BI analytics—and works closely with Microsoft engineers as it plots out new initiatives.

As mobile order and mobile payments currently accounts for 12 percent of transactions in U.S. company-operated stores, and the trend is expected to grow manifold, Starbucks is relying on an array of technology solutions to meet demand and enable partners. 

For instance, another tool Starbucks is deploying in its busiest stores is Digital Order Manager, that will assist baristas in the store with the management of customer orders. Once all of the items in an order are ready for pick-up, Starbucks baristas can select the order on the Digital Order Manager screen to notify the customer that their order is ready for pickup. This uses elements of the Starbucks Production Controller system, App Service and is served on a Microsoft Surface.

Partnering with Microsoft – in the cloud and in stores – is helping Starbucks to innovate in ways that are seamless for customers and allow Starbucks partners to spend more time connecting with customers and crafting the perfect coffee experience. 

Martin-Flickinger said, “The partnership with Microsoft has been fabulous on multiple levels. Of course, we use cloud services, but it goes beyond being a tech supplier. Microsoft has engaged with us to bring in their experts and work directly to ideate on things in the store and across the business.”

Each one of these projects leverages cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, which is enabling Starbucks to move faster and build better solutions and deploy these solutions globally in the near future.

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