Starbucks is about to make ordering a lot more convenient for busy Houston travelers. 

In partnership with airport hospitality group OTG, the beverage giant will open its first airport-based pickup-only concept in Terminal E of the George Bush International Airport. It’s going to exclusively take mobile orders through Starbucks’ app. When doing so, customers can either enable location services or manually select IAH Terminal E to start the process. When the order status updates to “ready,” guests can swing by to grab their items without waiting in line. 

READ MORE: Cold Drinks Now Represent 75 Percent of Starbucks’ Sales

The Terminal E unit is the first of three openings, with the next two coming later this fall. Each will feature warm wood tones, green accents, and botanical art pieces representative of the brand’s design DNA and the coffee’s origin. There will also be an open view of employees crafting the products, as well as a screen that walks people through how to order.


CFO Rachel Ruggeri said in June that out of the chain’s roughly 9,300-store U.S. corporate footprint at the time, 70 percent were drive-thru, 29 percent were cafes, and 1 percent were pickup only. She also noted that drive-thru shops provide the best unit economics, but diversity of footprint is needed to meet customers’ variable needs. 

The off-premises design has been part of Starbucks’ growth pattern since before the pandemic. The chain opened its first pickup-only unit in Manhattan back in November 2019. 

The new store in Houston is a reflection of Starbucks growing digital presence. The brand said in July that 90-day active rewards members increased to nearly 75 million globally—a 25 percent bump in Q3. That was mostly fueled by 31.4 million members in the U.S., a jump of 15 percent or 4 million year-over-year. Rewards customers mixed 57 percent in the third quarter, a lift of more than 3 percentage points compared to last year. 

“We have a range of formats where we can deliver this third place experience but also deliver experiential convenience powered by digital in an omnichannel way,” CEO Laxman Narasimhan told investors in July. “So I look at its brand, I look at its consumer appeal, I look at its durability, I look at its strength, I look at its range, it feels very good to me that we will get to a revenue growth of 10 percent to 12 percent, and by the way, the earnings growth of 15 percent to 20 percent over time.”

Starbucks was the fastest-growing restaurant in America in 2022 by net expansion, expanding by 429 locations.

Starbucks’ U.S. business delivered 7 percent same-store sales growth in Q3 as ticket grew 6 percent and transactions 1 percent. The weekly sales number (the exact figure wasn’t shared) broke a company record set during this past holiday season. Customer counts rose 5 percent, year-over-year—also in line with a high mark achieved in Q1 2023. 

One of the big unlocks at work is the brand’s continued growth through order-ahead and the rising preference of customization. Mobile order and pay, drive-thru, and delivery is mixing about 75 percent of company-owned revenue these days.

In Q3 more than 60 percent of beverages were customized, 9 percent higher than five years ago. The company’s 90-day active rewards base grew to nearly 75 million globally, up 25 percent. Stateside, the figure is 31.4 million, which is about 15 percent, or 4 million new customers, higher than the previous year.

Starbucks’ U.S. pool of rewards users drove 57 percent of tender for the second consecutive quarter—3 percentage points above last year. Spend per member reached a record high, as did total member spend. 

In particular for this model, one lever the brand pulled of late is its “Connect” platform, where licensed stores (like this one) can take rewards payment and integration. That’s up to 40 percent of non-corporate units today, including every major U.S. airport outpost.

Beverage, Fast Food, Growth, Story, Starbucks