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Starbucks to introduce AI-enabled machines in all of its US and Canada stores

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Kevin Johnson works a Holiday Helper shift at his regular Starbucks store in Bellevue on December 19, 2019 in Bellevue. (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)

MILAN – Starbucks prepares to introduce 4,000 AI-enabled coffee makers in its US store. “We have been dialing up our in-house capabilities and investments in AI with an initiative we call Deep Brew,” the company’s CEO Kevin Johnson said during Tuesday night’s earnings call.

Starbucks COO Rosalind (Roz) Brewer told analysts on the same occasion that 4,000 new Mastrena II coffee machines will arrive in stores this year. All stores in the U.S. and Canada are expected to have them by 2022.

The byproduct of Starbucks’ internal Deep Brew AI program, these anything but normal coffee machines serve at least two purposes. One is to collect data — using sensors built into the machine — on what’s selling and when the hardware may need to be repaired.

Over time, that should help Starbucks save on operating costs. Another useful aspect is to speed up line wait times, as the machine could pull together a triple espresso instantly.

Starbucks efforts around technology have one big fan: board member and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Deep Brew includes integrating AI capabilities into the chain’s espresso machine — the Mastrena 2 — to deliver telemetry data to the Starbucks support center. The chain installed 900 last year and is rolling out 4,000 of the AI-enabled versions this year.

The data collected by the machines will help optimize store labor allocations and drive inventory management, said Brewer.

“From the point of the digital relationships, the more we learn about our customer base, the better we had been marketing to them” she added

Better personalized marketing, of course, leads to better retention and driving frequency in stores, Brewer concluded.

Johnson said the chain will leverage Deep Brew to also free up employees so they can spend more time connecting with customers.

“Deep Brew is a key differentiator for the future, and as we continue our quest to build world-class AI capabilities to better support partners,” he said.