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Starbucks Adds Incentive for Customers To Bring Their Own Cups

Starbucks Coffee Company is allowing customers to bring their own reusable cup when ordering in the drive-thru, in the café, or with the app.

All company-owned stores and participating licensed Starbucks have implemented the program, which is part of Starbucks’ sustainability commitment to reduce waste by 50% by the year 2030.

Customers receive a ten-cent discount and a member reward of 25 Bonus Stars for bringing their own cup. Starbucks is the first national coffee chain in the United States to allow customers to bring their own cup when using the mobile app.

Video Spotlight:  

This post is based on the Starbucks Stories & News post, Starbucks Becomes First National Coffee Retailer to Accept Reusable Cups for Drive-thru and Mobile Orders, by Starbucks, January 3, 2024, and the YouTube video in the spotlight.  Image source: DCPhoto/Alamy Stock Photo

Discussion Questions:

1. How does the “bring your own cup” change affect Starbucks’ processes?

Guidance: Obviously, this change increases the complexity of processes. Baristas needs to know if the customer has brought their own cup. The pandemic emphasized the need to limit disease transmission, and Starbucks uses a contactless method of transferring the cup—again adding an additional step.

Baristas use a newly designed container to create the drink with marking for various sized drinks. Once the drink is complete, the barista transfers the drink to the customer’s cup. Again, this adds a step. It will also require that this container is cleaned.

Potential problems include customers handing the barista a dirty cup, customers handing the barista a cup with the lid still on, customers ordering a drink size that doesn’t match the cup size, and customers forgetting to specify they’re using their own cup.

In spite of the added complexity, Starbucks claim this change will not increase service time.

2. How has Starbucks modified its processes to make this policy work?

Guidance: Starbucks has made a handful of changes to its processes. The app now allows customers to specify they are bringing their own cup (in the customized order section of the app). The company also developed a container to be used to create the drink with markings for the various sizes, and the drink is then transferred to a customer’s cup.

3. What other methods could be used to reduce single-use cups?

Guidance: Starbucks has used, and continues to use, other ways of reducing the use of single-use cups to improve sustainability.

One way is through Starbucks’ “Borrow a Cup” program. In this case, the customer pays a one-dollar deposit for a reusable cup. The customer then returns this cup to a kiosk and receives a refund on their deposit.

Another approach is that in-café customers can request a reusable ceramic or glass cup.

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