Starbucks this morning announced (via an email) it will expand the delivery pilot program it runs in Miami with Uber Eats to other U.S. cities. Starting today, the program is available in San Francisco, and will move to NYC, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles over the next few weeks.
Starbucks has been testing out the delivery concept since 2015, when it launched a partnership in the U.S. with Postmates, which it has maintained over the last few years. Then, in 2018, Starbucks teamed up with Uber Eats in Miami to offer “favorite items that have been tested for delivery.” This latest round of cities is an expansion of that pilot.
For the Miami pilot, the caramel Frappucino has wound up being the most popular item ordered thus far. That isn’t surprising, since blended ice, sugar, and whatever else they put in those things will travel a lot better than a piping hot cup of black coffee (though fewer people probably want that in Miami anyway).
Which brings up a good point: hot liquids don’t travel well (duh). The times I’ve ordered coffee from the deli down the block, I’ve gotten a paper cup quadruple-wrapped in plastic cellophane containing a sort-of hot beverage. I’ve always blamed myself for being lazy enough to get coffee delivered in the first place. But if pricey coffee drinks become a standard delivery item, companies like Starbucks may need to think about more delivery-friendly packaging.
Still, I doubt packaging will deter people. The addition of Japan as a delivery market last year suggests the Starbucks-Uber Eats pilot is thus-far fruitful. Others — namely, Dunkin’ and McDonalds (also via Uber Eats) — are also jumping on the coffee-delivery trend, which will fuel more competition in the market.
Uber Eats, meanwhile, is ramping up its efforts across many areas of the food-delivery space. The company has been looking to use drones for delivery, and has exclusive partnerships with virtual (aka ghost) kitchens, too. While I speculate here, one could even imagine Starbucks and Uber Eats setting up a ghost kitchen to handle the influx of extra orders an expanded delivery partnership could bring.
Finally, the Uber IPO has been looming in the future for some time, though it, along with Lyft’s, are reportedly stalled at the moment due to the government shutdown. In any case, expanding a partnership in a space growing as fast as a delivery seems a well-calculated move for Uber Eats, right now and when that IPO eventually does happen.