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New first-of-its kind Starbucks is focused on accessibility

Starbucks store design
Starbucks has more than 38,000 stores worldwide. (Image credited to Connor Surdi.)

Starbucks Coffee Company has unveiled a new store design that puts the focus on accessibility and inclusion.

The coffee giant unveiled the format at its new store at Union Market in Washington D.C. (Take a virtual tour of the new cafe.) It features accessible features such as optimized acoustics and lighting for improved visual and audible communication for customers, power-operated dooors as well as accessible equipment designs for a better employee experience.

The Union Market store is the first to be built using Starbucks’ new inclusive design framework, which it said will help expand independence, choice and ease for all people across physical and digital spaces. Moving forward, all newly built and renovated Starbucks company-operated stores in the U.S. will begin to incorporate the framework. 

The framework, which will open sourced and further developed to help expand accessibility across the retail industry,  created in partnership with a diverse community of customers, employees and accessibility experts to develop scalable solutions for retail spaces.

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Some of the new features that Starbucks will begin to incorporate include:

•Updated Point-of-Sale (POS): The updated POS system is customized to meet the needs of more employees and customers. It’s now portable for improved ease of use with customers, has an adjustable angle stand for better visibility, an intuitive and customizable layout, offers voice assist and screen magnification, shows images of menu items to support language diversity and provides visual order confirmation to help ensure order accuracy.

Customer Order Status Boards: Customer order status boards will offer customers visual update on where their order is in the process, and when it’s ready to be picked up — providing multiple ways of communicating.

•Power-Operated Doors: Wherever possible, doors to store entrances will include a longer vertical push button that is easier to activate from more heights a designed to reduce the effort required to open the door.

•Optimized Acoustics and Lighting: Stores will use materials to reduce unwanted background noise and reverberation that can interfere with assistive devices like hearing aids, and lighting that minimizes glare, shadow patterns and backlighting that can impede visual communication.

•Inclusive Equipment Design: Starbucks Clover Vertica brewer was built to include a more accessible store experience for our partners including design features such as a larger dial and button that protrude for a more accessible reach and visual and haptic confirmation, including a light to notify when brewing is complete.

•Paths of Travel: Store designs will create a continuous, unobstructed pedestrian path, allowing people to approach, enter, explore, enjoy and exit the store with ease where possible. This includes open sight lines, barrier free pathways with more accessible wayfinding to accommodate varying heights, distances and iconography.

•Connection: To nurture a culture of connection between customers and partners, counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchair access and support better communication when picking up food and beverages.

“At Starbucks, we have challenged ourselves to imagine what’s possible when we take a closer look at the many ways our partners and customers interact with us and experience our stores every day,” said Katie Young, senior VP of store operations. “Building and scaling an inclusive store framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all.”

Starbucks noted that, with an estimated one-in-four adults in the United States having a disability, the company is working to better meet the needs of its partners, customers and communities. 

During Starbucks’s recent fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Laxman Narasimhan, said the company is bullish on new store openings and their strong unit economics. Starbucks plans to continue open more stores, growing by approximately 4% this year in the U.S. on a base of over 16,000, including licensed stores. 

The company’s new company-operated stores in the U.S. are averaging unit volumes of approximately $2 million with ROIs of approximately 50%. 

Starbucks has more than 38,000 stores worldwide.

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