Your Local Starbucks Might Soon Look Very Different

Big changes are coming to Starbucks locations nationwide.

Starbucks announced today that all newly built and freshly renovated locations will feature a new design and some major upgrades, and your local shop could be the latest one to feature them. From digital order trackers to redesigned countertops, the stated aim of this Starbucks revamp is to "support access and inclusion for the partners, customers and communities it serves."

The first Starbucks store to include this Inclusive Spaces Framework opened its doors today in Washington D.C. This newly built Starbucks location includes a number of features meant to make the space more accessible and inclusive for all customers.

For example, the updated point of sale system has an adjustable angle stand for better visibility and offers voice assist and screen magnification. The system also displays images of menu items and offers visual order confirmation to improve order accuracy for customers who might require non-verbal cues. Showing images of the menu items means that language barriers between the barista and the customer could theoretically become less of an impediment during the ordering process.

Starbucks has lowered the height of its countertops and added overhangs to make them more wheelchair compatible, and the acoustics have been adjusted to help cut out background noise and reverberation that could interfere with assistive devices like hearing aids. In the new spaces, the lighting will also be tweaked to minimize "glare, shadow patterns and backlighting that can impede visual communication."

Perhaps the most interesting update under this new framework, and the one that will likely be most noticeable to the casual Starbucks customer, is the implementation of order status boards, or digital displays that let customers know where their order is in the process, whether it's just being prepared or it's ready to be picked up. While fast food chains such as Dunkin', McDonald's, and Panera Bread have made use of such boards for years, they haven't been on display at Starbucks.

Although Starbucks has been experimenting with its delivery capabilities for some time now, and has long offered mobile pickup cafés with no seating area to speak of, it seems the chain is trying to fall back in line with its intention of making its cafés a "Third Place" for the communities they serve—that is, a place of comfort and connection where people can gather that's not one's home or workplace. The inclusive framework planned for future Starbucks locations looks to be an invitation to every potential customer to sit down and have a cup of coffee in store rather than take it to go.