The coronavirus may have halted business at some 2,000 Starbucks (SBUX) stores in China, but it won’t stop the coffee-serving beast from unleashing one of its latest innovations even more out into the wild this year.
Artificial intelligence-enabled coffee machines.
Starbucks COO Rosalind (Roz) Brewer told analysts on a conference call Tuesday evening that 4,000 new Mastrena II coffee machines will arrive in stores this year. The company released 1,900 of these AI-enabled machines in 2019 following a launch in March.
All stores in the U.S. and Canada are expected to have them by 2022.
The byproduct of Starbucks’ internal Deep Brew AI program, these anything but normal coffee machines serve at least two purposes. One is to collect data — using sensors built into the machine — on what’s selling and when the hardware may need to be repaired. Over time, that should help Starbucks save on operating costs. Another useful aspect is to speed up line wait times, as the machine could pull together a triple espresso instantly.
Starbucks efforts around technology have one big fan: board member and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
“Starbucks to me is a coffee company that cares deeply about coffee. But what they have always done is use technology to improve that core ethos of Starbucks,” Nadella told Yahoo Finance in an interview. “That’s whether what they do in their supply chain or what they do in terms of the retail experience or their new mobile convenience experiences. Everything is about using technology, but never losing sight that at Starbucks Coffee Company it’s about coffee and the coffee experience.”
Starbucks shares fell 3% on Wednesday in the wake of its latest quarterly earnings. Despite a 3 cent earnings beat and better-than-expected global same-store sales growth, investors were on edge about the coronavirus impact to the company in coming weeks. Starbucks not only said it has closed 2,000 stores in China — half of its store base there — but it’s unable to estimate the financial impact from the situation.
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Watch The First Trade each day here at 9:00 a.m. ET or on Verizon FIOS channel 604. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.