Major food brands debut pick-up only concepts

As fully explored in Cassandra’s The Retail Exchange, the way young consumers shop is becoming polarized: they’re tending toward either experiential or, at the other end of the spectrum, frictionless formats to obtain the products and services they desire. The following major food brands are debuting concepts on the frictionless end of the spectrum, allowing young consumers to get their food and beverages and get out, quickly and painlessly.


Catering directly to consumer demand for frictionless experiences, Starbucks is set to launch a pick up-only cafe concept in NYC later this fall. This initiative is directly inspired by the success of the brand’s Starbucks Now concept in China, where patrons place their beverage orders on their mobile phones in advance before collecting the orders, wait-free, at a Starbucks Now physical outpost. If the NYC pick-up only location proves successful, Starbucks will launch this concept across other big cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, where this type of shop will live alongside the brand’s stay-and-relax cafe concepts.


Fast-food giant McDonald’s recently opened a to-go location in London where customers pick up their food and eat it elsewhere, as there is no seating in the store. This pilot concept uses technology to improve on the already-convenient drive-thru option the chain offers: patrons order their food via touchscreens, endure a short wait time in a dedicated collections area, and pick up their order when it’s ready—a process that’s made quicker because human employees only focus on preparing the food rather than taking orders. With this concept, McDonald’s is setting the bar for frictionless fast-food experiences.


Taking direct inspiration from e-commerce initiatives like Amazon Lockers, a Pizza Hut location in LA recently debuted cubbies for carryout orders. A customer places their order before paying in-store, which unlocks their dedicated cubby and allows them to take their pizza. The cubbies boast display screens (which, to protect customer data, show partial names only) and are insulated to keep food hot and drinks cold. What’s more, Pizza Hut has announced “completely frictionless” West Coast concepts in the works for 2020.