As seamless, digital ordering is a new way for customers to engage in food and beverage retail, a New York-based coffee brand has completely embraced this model.

If customers wander into the Bandit coffee shop in Midtown New York, they won’t be able to just walk up to the counter and order. Instead, they will need to download a mobile app in order to place an order and complete payment. Only then will a barista will call the customer up to the counter to pick up his or her order once it is ready.

While Starbucks has been experimenting with mobile ordering and payment, Bandit is betting entirely on what co-founder and CEO Max Crowley called a “mobile-only” store.

Obviously, this model can lead to some initial awkwardness, particularly if customers that stop in do not understand it. But there are friendly Bandit staff members on-hand to help, and Crowley (who was previously the general manager of Uber for Business) says that this model offers an opportunity to create “a whole new type of experience.”

He related to the rapid growth of China’s Luckin Coffee as an inspiration, and suggested that, ultimately, Bandit should offer customers the most convenient way to satisfy their coffee cravings. This means wherever they are, they open the app and order. Then they will be told when it is ready and where to pick it up.

For one thing, this first Bandit store is located in what is essentially a raw retail space. Crowley said his team has developed an 11x11 countertop where all the coffee is prepared. This enables coffee to be assembled elsewhere and just needs to be plugged in, eliminating the need for an extensive buildout.

Crowley added that by keeping costs down, Bandit can also keep its coffee affordable: “I don’t think an iced latte needs to be $6 or $7. Our goal is to be less expensive than Starbucks.”

The company is also experimenting with other pricing models, starting with a $20 subscription that gets you an unlimited number of $1 drinks for a month.

Crowley and his team were aware of the possible awkwardness caused by mobile-only feature and worked to minimize it. While the store’ space is a bit bare, it is eye-catching, with several large games like cornhole set up for customers. Most importantly, people are not rushing in to pick up their coffee — they are actually hanging out.

“When we did some rudimentary scouting of coffee shop locations, we saw that about 80 percent of customers are grabbing their coffee and leaving,” Crowley says.

“That is definitely core to us, making it super easy to grab it and leave, fulfilling drink orders in less than a minute. All of that said, in the future, we’re going to have this portfolio of different kinds of spaces, different kinds of experiences,” Bandit’s CEO adds.
 

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