The Quest for Accessible and Inclusive Design: Starbucks’ New Store Model

The Quest for Accessible and Inclusive Design: Starbucks’ New Store Model

Starbucks has embarked on a mission to create a new store design that prioritizes accessibility and inclusivity. Rather than superficially addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities, the coffee giant aims to implement a comprehensive framework that benefits everyone. After two years of meticulous planning, Starbucks unveiled the first location with the innovative design in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market, showcasing their commitment to improving the overall customer experience.

Sara Trilling, president of Starbucks North America, emphasizes the significance of designing for disabilities as “good design for everybody.” By actively involving their baristas in the process, Starbucks sought valuable input from those at the forefront of customer service. The new accessibility-focused cafe features power-operated doors to reduce physical exertion when entering. Upon entering, customers are greeted by a revamped point-of-sale system, equipped with various assistive technologies. This system includes an adjustable angle stand, voice assist, screen magnification, and photos of menu items, ensuring a seamless ordering process for all individuals. Trilling highlights the importance of visual cues, particularly for customers who may face language barriers, in confirming orders accurately and providing excellent service.

Staying true to their commitment, Starbucks has implemented various inclusive features throughout the store. The counters have been lowered to accommodate wheelchair users, exemplifying the company’s dedication to providing accessibility for all. Additionally, Starbucks’ latest brewing system, the Clover Vertica, features an inclusive design with a large dial and prominent buttons, allowing users to navigate the machine with ease. The tactile nature of the system enables users to feel the settings, granting them an inclusive and personalized experience.

The Union Market store has undergone significant changes to ensure a pleasant ambiance for customers. Lighting modifications have been adopted to minimize glare, shadows, and backlighting, enhancing visibility and reducing potential visual impairments. Furthermore, insulation improvements have been made to reduce noise levels, creating a more serene environment for customers to enjoy their beverages. Starbucks has meticulously designed the overall floor plan of the store to remove obstacles and create open sightlines, fostering a welcoming atmosphere for everyone.

Demonstrating their commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, Starbucks plans to apply this new store design to all future company-owned locations. By embracing these principles, Starbucks aims to open more than 600 new stores this year while increasing its U.S. footprint by 4%, including licensed locations. Importantly, creating more accessible stores is not anticipated to incur substantial additional costs compared to current designs, dispelling the notion that inclusivity comes at a high price. Instead, Starbucks believes that this new store model will enhance customer connection and employee engagement, ultimately strengthening its brand and fostering an inclusive community.

Starbucks’ launch of an accessible and inclusive store design marks a significant milestone for the company’s commitment to inclusivity and customer experience. By investing time and effort in creating an environment that accommodates the needs of all individuals, Starbucks sets an example for other establishments to follow in the journey toward inclusivity. With a comprehensive framework in place, Starbucks embraces the challenge of transforming their stores into welcoming spaces and ensuring that every customer feels valued and included.


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