Starbucks Could Serve a Blockchain Payments Program Up


Bitcoin could be off limits, but the coffee chain isn't overlooking the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies. Howard Schultz, Starbucks executive chairman and the face behind the brand, suggested blockchain might well be part of the coffee retailer's future, pointing to the possibility of a «proprietary digital currency integrated into our program.»

«I believe blockchain technology is probably the rails where an integrated app at Starbucks will be sitting on top of.»

It is interesting because Schultz on the company's latest earnings call  indicated they weren't creating their own cryptocurrency nor investing in any blockchain startups. But he did at that point to the blockchain for eventually delivering a «consumer application» for cryptos.

If you are thinking Ripple's XRP would have been ideal, think about that Ripple chief Brad Garlinghouse doesn't consider XRP a cryptocurrency.

«It is not currency.   I can not go to Starbucks or Amazon and use [it.]… All these are digital assets. If the asset solves a real problem for a real client, then there'll be value in the asset.» — Brad Garlinghouse in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Crypto

Starbucks, which is spearheading its maiden «cashless store» in Seattle, has adopted mobile tech payments. «Over the past four-to-five decades, Starbucks has made a proxy for a cellular digital payments system,» said Schultz on Fox Business, pointing to the fact that 50% of the provider's tender is paid for with people's smartphones. Meanwhile, in China, which is a leader in mobile payments, almost three-quarters of the business is cashless.

Blockchain, Yes.

But Schultz does not have any interest in bitcoin, having shunned the cryptocurrency likely for lengthy transaction times and hefty fees that have plagued the network.

Blockchain technology might be the gateway for the company to take a cryptocurrency that is more conducive to payments. The public ledger might also be a way to demonstrate its commitment to ethically sourced components for menu-items, with the ability to track products such as coffee and cocoa from farm to table. Schutz emphasized the firm's commitment to the community, and the public ledger is certainly a good way to record and share it.

Schultz made the comments on Feb. 27, and the inventory didn't maintain the typical «blockchain bounce» that listed companies get for associating blockchain with their operations in some way.

Schultz's noted the business's long-term view, one that won't be driven by any one quarter's performance. He is more focused on creating the brand as relevant outside retail locations as inside, which he says is the «real question» for all brick-and-mortar stores nowadays.