Imagine you’re on your way to work. You walk up the stairs from the subway, and your coffee order is put in automatically. You walk into Starbucks, past the line, tell the barista your name, and she hands you your tall latte with skim.
This is the future of buying your morning coffee with the newly updated Starbucks mobile app. Today, a pilot program to buy coffee by iPhone launched in Portland, Oregon, which will allow you to buy coffee without standing in line to order or handing a cashier your phone to pay. And over the next year, the app (on Android soon) will see a series of updates, including the option to set a daily coffee order, or even use geofencing to automatically place your coffee order at the perfect time during your morning commute. It's part of a larger trend in fast food to move ordering from queues to pocketable apps—and it's a challenge fraught with unforeseen perils that extend beyond sleek interfaces into store operations themselves.