Jackson County

New tech adds a little face time for drive-thru customers

Leslie Wilson places her order at the new interactive menu board at Starkbucks in Ocean Springs.
Leslie Wilson places her order at the new interactive menu board at Starkbucks in Ocean Springs. ttisbell@sunherald.com

The newest Starbucks on the Coast has a special way to connect with customers in the drive-thru.

It's an electronic board that shows what the customer has ordered — not unlike other fast food restaurants — but fancier. There’s a Skype-like component.

“It has a face camera so we can see you and you can see us,” a staffer explained recently. “Our side has a camera and so does yours.”

It's a first on the Coast, and it's at the recently opened Starbucks on U.S. 90 in Ocean Springs.

On the menu screen, where there is a large Starbucks logo, the logo disappears and the server’s face pops up to ask the driver what they want to order. Her face is just a few feet away, so the experience is a little surprising if you're not used to it.

“It's making the drive-thru more personalized and face-to-face,” the staffer said.

On the corporate website is this explanation: “It happens millions of times each week — a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista — but each interaction is unique. It’s just a moment in time — just one hand reaching over the counter to present a cup to another outstretched hand. But it’s a connection. We make sure everything we do honors that connection.”

Courtney at Starbucks headquarters says they started testing the technology in 2014 in Seattle and continue to roll it out across the United States. One made it here.

On the company newsblog, it explains the value when a server used sign language to take a drive-thru order.

There were 2,400 planned beginning in October of 2015, according to an article in Fortune magazine, which pointed out that Starbucks has placed an emphasis on better technology to keep the competition at bay.

After all, it also has the mobile app that places you at the head of the line when picking up an order.

But we noticed the face-to-face experience wasn’t used as much during the rush-hour traffic at the Ocean Springs store at 7:30 a.m.

Could it be that not all drivers want that face-to-face so early in the day?