Starbucks Takes a Stake in Tech

The mega coffee chain aims to enhance mobile ordering and payment options.

July 25, 2019

SEATTLE—Starbucks is taking a stake and securing a board seat in Brightloom, a digital technology company, in order to speed up its stores’ mobile ordering, increase payment options and improve customer convenience, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Brightloom, founded in 2015 under the name eatsa, will make the coffee chain’s system for mobile ordering and payment, loyalty perks and delivery-order management available to Starbucks licensees. The companies then plan to sell access to the platform to other restaurant operators trying to establish their own digital programs.

Specific financial terms have not been disclosed, although Starbucks’ stake is said to be significant. The company’s licensees abroad are expected to be the first to sign up.

Starbucks is the world’s largest coffee chain by stores and revenue. With 30,000-plus locations, it was one of the first big restaurant chains to invest in a sophisticated loyalty program. But licensees have been slow to adopt its digital offerings. Less than half of Starbucks markets around the world now have the company’s mobile app, and only eight accept digital payments, Starbucks has said.

Digital ordering and delivery programs are increasingly vital to food providers trying to draw more customers amid heavy competition. In addition, restaurants are expanding mobile payment to make purchasing easier and more appealing to young consumers. A recent survey by Toast Inc., a food-service tech provider, found that only 31% of U.S. restaurants currently accept mobile payments

But the biggest restaurant chains are upping their tech investments. This year, McDonald’s bought an Israeli digital startup in order to improve its drive-through ordering and promotions, and chain is experimenting with voice-activated ordering at its drive-throughs.