Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Daniel Roberts
October 14, 2015

If you’re a frequent customer of a Starbucks (SBUX) drive-through location, your morning java pickup is about to get more efficient—or so the chain hopes.

Starbucks will be adding video screens to 2,400 of its drive-through lanes in the U.S. The process will happen over the next 12 months.

Such screens are standard at drive-through lanes of many fast-food chains, such as McDonalds (MCD), Burger King (QSr), and Sonic—but the Starbucks screens will have a twist: customers will see their barista’s face when they relay their order. Not all bleary-eyed, early-morning drivers may crave such an interaction, but a spokesperson told Bloomberg: “It’s about that customer-barista connection.” Starbucks began testing this technology two years ago in its home state of Washington, and a spokesperson told the Huffington Post at that time, “There’s just a little bit more personal interaction in the drive-thru experience when you have the video screen.”

As much as the company may position the screens as a tool to make the ordering moment more welcoming and friendly, this is really about speed of service. We’ve all had the experience of pulling up to a clunky speaker, shouting our order, and hearing a crackly, hard-to-understand voice on the other end. The video screens should make the drive-through process better: your items appear on the screen as you order them so that you know the order has gone through. You will deliver your order to the floating, pixellated head of a barista who can see you, too.

Starbucks has been putting a bigger emphasis on technology in recent years, especially, lately, on mobile technology, and recently rolled out mobile ordering. As other coffee chains edge into its lane in popular product areas like cold-brew coffee (see: Peet’s, Chick-fil-A, and Le Pain Quotidien), CEO Howard Schultz is betting big on better tech.

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