Retail

Making The Coffee Run A Mobile Order-Ahead-Only Experience

espresso machine

To help customers enjoy a cup of joe or a morning croissant, digital innovators are opening coffee shops with faster and easier order and pickup designs. Bandit, in one case, serves customers through a mobile order only café in midtown Manhattan. Bandit Co-Founder and CEO Max Crowley was an early employee of Uber and launched the Chicago market as well as Uber for Business for the company. He spent approximately seven years at Uber, where he saw first-hand how mobile app-based tech can impact everyday activities.

In the case of Uber, the technology helped consumers get rides and move about their cities. And, when it comes to Bandit, the technology is enabling a daily coffee routine. There is virtually nothing more everyday than getting a coffee. And Crowley saw that a mobile app experience could be transformative: push a button, get a coffee. The company’s north star vision is that consumers can be anywhere in a city and be less than five minutes away from Bandit and picking up coffee.

Consumers download the company’s app before they place their orders, which are routed to the company’s café. It currently has one location, so they need to be near 46th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York. When consumers arrive at the shop, there is a pickup counter for their orders. They can stay in the space if they choose, but for the most part, people are grabbing their orders and going on with their day. Crowley told PYMNTS in an interview that the company focuses on “the digital ordering experience and the physical handoff.”

The Shop

While Crowley says the company has excellent java, it also has other options through the app that are not black coffee or cold brew. A quick look at the Bandit site shows that a chocolate croissant and a banana walnut muffin, among other choices, are on the menu. The app experience itself is excellent, Crowley said, because “it’s a real-time inventory of what’s available.” In other words, it’s an up-to-date display board or menu board. And, by having that digital relationship with the customer, the company is “able to test different things in the app.”

If Bandit releases new items, in one case, they are displayed in the app. And consumers can then see in real time that a new product is available. The company can understand preferences, so it can make the menu slim, and it can contain the right number of items. From a menu standpoint, the digital experience allows the company to innovate quickly and adapt to the latest trends. Bandit is testing a turmeric latte right now, which Crowley says has been “well-received,” and it also offers drinks such as a peppermint latte.

The fact that the company is solely focused on the digital experience and pre-ordering, Crowley says, provides it with an advantage. By contrast, he points out that Starbucks and other sorts of traditional cafes have a multi-faceted focus. They have in-person ordering, mobile order-ahead, and people hanging out in their stores. He does note that, in a lot of ways, the company is inspired by Luckin in China as they have taken a full-on digital approach.

The Market

Chinese coffee company Luckin, for its part, has expanded at breakneck speed, opening 2,370 stores with plans to open 2,500 by the end of this year per reports in May. At the time, reports noted that approximately 90 percent of its stores are little shops designed for quick and easy pickup that are near customers.

Bandit comes as people of all sorts of generations are on smartphones, whether they are used for shopping, talking or other purposes. “We think this can absolutely have mass market appeal,” Crowley said. The firm has also tested a subscription offering. It charges a customer $15 a month for access to unlimited coffee, cold brew, and more specials for a dollar.

Crowley points out the market for coffee is here, and it wants to have a “high-quality product that’s affordable where our consumers are.” The overarching vision is that the company can be in many places and make it easy for consumers to be a quick walk away from its stores as it aims to provide a mobile-ordering experience for busy coffee consumers.

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