By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Starbucks Corp’s latest coffee shop lacks an item most customers are used to seeing: cashiers.

The global coffeehouse chain opened its first-ever store on Thursday in partnership with Amazon Go, the physical convenience store of the e-commerce giant, where customers can sit at a table with a latte or have a sandwich on a shelf and go out .

Struck by a labor shortage in the United States, Starbucks and other companies are developing labor-saving technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and digital touchscreens .

White Castle is testing a robot fries cooker and Domino’s Pizza Inc is testing autonomous vehicles for delivery. IBM is developing automated order taking for McDonald’s Corp drive-thru services.

Staffing levels at American restaurants are still at least 10% lower overall than before the pandemic, helping to increase margins, Rabobank analyst Tom Bailey said.

“You would see some of the digital automation tools rolled out to cover that 10% gap as they grow,” he said.

The pandemic has pushed people to place more orders online for delivery, delivery and drive-thru. To keep pace, Starbucks shifted its development strategy to new store formats, adding pickup locations only in urban areas, as well as traditional cafes and suburban drive-throws.

Starbucks and Amazon plan to jointly open at least three more locations in the United States in 2022, said Kathryn Young, senior vice president of global growth and development at Starbucks.

Starbucks baristas will prepare drinks and the rest of the chain’s menu in the new New York location, which will have the same level of staff as any other Starbucks, she said.

Customers can order through the Starbucks app and grab take out coffee at a counter near the door. Or they can use a credit card, Amazon app, or Amazon One palm reader to enter the rest of the space, grab snacks from the shelves, or sit at tables.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by David Gregorio)


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