- Starbucks is expanding its airport location count with two new airport foodservice partnerships, including airport retailer and restaurateur Paradies Lagardère and airport hospitality group OTG Management, according to Nation's Restaurant News. The coffee chain will open new stores around the world with the two companies later in 2020.
- The new partnerships are aimed at providing Starbucks visitors with a "re-imagined customer experience" offering mobile ordering and payment options. OTG and Starbucks, for example, will introduce popup concepts that can move throughout terminals, delivering coffee to travelers before they board or after they arrive, along with traditional storefronts, according to Skift.
- These new partnerships come on the heels of HMSHost's decision to end its exclusive arrangement with the coffee giant, which began when Starbucks opened its first airport location 29 years ago. The companies will continue to work together, and Starbucks is open to partnering with even more operators in the airport space moving forward.
Starbucks' break from HMSHost has cleared the runway for the coffee retailer to experiment with what its airport locations could look like in the future. With consumers shopping for experience-focused food, this could bode well, particularly in the competitive airport restaurant space.
One concept that travelers may see sooner rather than later is a popup Starbucks location equipped with digital ordering capabilities so that drink orders are ready for gate-to-gate delivery service, making it easier for travelers with short timelines to still make a purchase, according to Nation's Restaurant News. This could be especially appealing to consumers traveling through new or rarely visited airports who don't know the layout that well.
Starbucks' growing focus on innovative, digitally-equipped service is a telling sign of the retail times. In the coffee space, it's not enough to simply offer hot brew and pastries, especially as diner demand for delivery grows and major competitors enter more travel centers.
Airports are considered prime real estate by many restaurants, as the location provides an opportunity to reach a wider demographic that may not have been exposed to the brand before. Other national brands like Shake Shack, Panera and Dunkin' have expanded into airports in recent years.
Travelers are also a captive consumer audience in airports, which could help drive more sales as they wait for their flight or look for a distraction during a long layover. Starbucks has been benefiting from these factors for decades, but could use these new partnerships to address problems that come with its airport locations, including long lines, which could dissuade time-strapped travelers who would otherwise buy from the brand.