From Concept to Scale: Starbucks Opening Innovative New Drive Thru Stores in Markets Around the U.S.

With more than 18 in-house studios around the word, Starbucks store designers are creating experiences that honor the integrity of the neighborhoods where they operate, while ensuring they meet the evolving needs customers around the world. The company’s latest inspiration came from the view outside its Seattle headquarters – a busy port overlooking the Puget Sound, sprawling with shipping containers from around the world. Recognizing that its own supply chain relies on such containers to transport coffee and tea, Starbucks wanted to find a way to reconfigure containers into an innovative store design. The result was the company’s first 450 square foot reclamation drive-thru and walk-up store in Tukwila, Wash. made from four end-of-life-cycle shipping containers. Built to LEED certification standards, like all new company-owned Starbucks stores around the world, the store was a modular structure, assembled at another location then lowered on to the site by cranes. The reclamation store in Tukwila quickly became the inspiration for Starbucks new modern modular drive thru platform. And with the company’s goal to build a drive thru window into 60 percent of the 1,500 new U.S. locations planned for the next five years – this new concept is giving the company an opportunity to create locally relevant, more sustainability designed stores.

Fast forward to 2013: Starbucks is now beginning to scale the modern modular drive thru concept, with both shipping containers and other prefab materials, to new markets across the U.S. with locations already open in Salt Lake City (its smallest drive thru to date at 386 square feet) and Denver. While the store is assembled offsite, delivering and installing the structure takes less time than traditional stores and, at less than 1,000 square feet, is giving the company an opportunity expand into sites that were previously too small to sustain one of its more traditional stores. This video from Starbucks captures the entire assembly process.

Starbucks recently opened its newest location in Portland, Ore. Made with recycled shipping containers, the modern modular drive thru continues to reinforce the commitment to designing for local relevancy by integrating the needs and habits of the biking community into the location. Last week the store unveiled a new custom bike rack feature designed by a Dutch biking company called Urban Racks, allowing customers to bike up and enjoy a warm cup of coffee on the large outdoor patio while still being able to keep a close eye on their bikes. In a recent interview with The Oregonian, Anthony Perez, director of concepts, said, “When designing this store for Portland, our in-house design team considered a variety of factors, including the world-famous biking culture, temperate climate, pet-friendly community, communal sensibilities, and residents who place as much importance on sustainability as we do. And of course Portland's love of coffee.”

Many of these modern modular locations incorporate a number of other sustainable elements, from xeriscaping to cladding made of materials like reclaimed Wyoming snow fencing or reclaimed Douglas fir from an old grain mill in eastern Washington. Being able to bring these types of designs to market is an example of one of the many ways Starbucks is using its global scale for good. Starbucks is also discovering ways to extend its learning from this project into other areas, such as in prefabrication projects and in exterior furniture and accessories. With more such stores slated to open in Virginia Beach, Va., Chicago, Casper, Wyo. and Federal Way, Wash., in the next month Starbucks global footprint is continuing to offer powerful opportunities to replicate and scale its green building efforts.