A step-by-step guide on how to build an app like Starbucks

Want to introduce an app for your coffeehouse? Here's your step-by-step guide on how to build a coffeehouse app like Starbucks with Builder.ai.

Ananth Ramanathan

VP Studio Store at Builder.ai
· 8 minute read
Build an app like starbucks

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First up, should you build an app like Starbucks? Well, last year the coffee industry’s revenue was $460 billion and over a third of all the humans on earth have a mobile. So it’s quite an easy ‘Yes’.

Starbucks may well be the most successful mobile ordering app of all time. Only Apple Pay has more US payment users (it’s staggering, as Apple Pay is a payment method rather than a single place to pay). So let’s look at why their app is so incredibly successful and how you can replicate their success…

4 lessons you can take from the Starbucks app

Starbucks revealed that personalization in the app is the single biggest driver for increasing customer spending.

The app launched in 2009, as one of the first mobile payment apps available on Apple's App Store. But what UX components are behind the app's success

#1. Offer seamless integration

The app’s design, the way you order drinks feel consistent with the Starbucks brand. Even better, the app makes the in store experience more convenient – customers don’t need to pull out a card or count change at the register – in fact, with the app they can often skip the queue altogether

It makes it all so easy, so intuitive, and so familiar for the customer.

#2. Reduce cognitive load with good design

Options make us feel good. But too many options are stressful – it’s called cognitive load – and it can lead to customers leaving without making any choice at all. Starbucks' app is cleverly designed to reduce cognitive load, even though customers have a choice between 160+ items Starbucks offers on any given day.

Here’s how it works.

When customers click in to order, they’re first presented with the ‘Featured’ option before any other menu items. This subtle suggestion about which drinks are seasonally popular makes it easier for the customer to make a decision, which subsequently makes it easier for them to check out.

After selecting a drink, customers are taken to a page where they’re given the option to customise their order. By separating the decision to customise from the main drinks page, the app breaks down each decision into smaller steps, decreasing cognitive load.

Using our platform, you'll be able to include these UX components too.

#3. Ramp up your rewards

The rewards program is probably one of the most successful components of the Starbucks app.

The first thing you see when you open the app is the gold goal metre counting toward a reward, where you can redeem free drinks or offers. The closer a customer gets to the reward, the more likely they are to spend more to reach it. Starbucks has also implemented opportunities to collect bonus stars or holiday-related stars. 

This gamified experience boosts customer engagement with the app and drives sales. The dopamine you get from watching that gold bar tick forward is formidable…

#4. Become your customers’ favourite

As Starbucks said, one of the most important drivers of app sales is customizability.

Returning users can favourite items, favourite stores, and even set up a favourite drink configured exactly how they like it. New users can clearly see how they might do this (by clicking the green heart).

These shortcuts allow advanced users of the app to speed through their orders. The efficiency, reliability and convenience all make it more likely they’ll become repeat customers. The app means it’s quicker to get a coffee at Starbucks, even if customers have to pass another coffee shop on their way there. It’s a powerful way to build your brand, when you do it right.

How to build a coffeehouse app 

Building an app like Starbucks could require millions of lines of code.

Instead of having to develop an app from scratch or fronting the cost of experienced app developers, you can use Builder.ai.

Our service is easy to use and will ship your software 6x faster.

Think of it like Lego blocks, you mix and match which features you want based on your business model. And you can build it without writing a single line of code.

You'll be designing the app in our Builder Studio. Our AI, Natasha, will handle everything else. It's that easy. And if you prefer humans, one of our experts can help you pick all your features and offer you advice on how to build a successful app.

These are the steps you can expect when you build with us.

1. Tell us what you want to build

Starbucks template for building a coffeehouse app

Go to Builder Studio and our AI (she’s called Natasha) will ask what you want to build, type in “I want to build an app like Starbucks” and she’ll find you the Starbucks template. 

This is just your starting point. You can completely customise or completely change it but starting with the Starbucks template as a base, saves you lots of time in the next step…

2. Choose your features

Starbucks template features

You could build the same app for your own business and use those same Starbuck features (hey it certainly works!). Or you could add your own features, we've over 500 features for you to choose from and can create any custom ones you like. 

You can also remove any features you don’t need. As you add or remove features, you’ll notice the prices go up or down. Your price is completely transparent from the start. 

3. Decide your timeline and scale

Now you can choose where you want your design and development team based. Our network of thousands of technical and creative experts work across the globe to help you build your app.

4. Get a guaranteed price

Payment plan screen for Builder Studio

We use AI to give you accurate costs and timeline before you start. Natasha, our AI, looks at all the features you’ve chosen and how long it took us to build them previously on every other project we’ve ever built. We’re so confident in her skills, that we guarantee your price. 

Natasha, will pull together the best designers and developers from our network of over 2,000 software experts to assemble your app and you'll have transparency and full control over the entire process. Through the dashboard, you can make changes at any time.

We can also pull in cloud services like AWS or Microsoft Azure to save you up to 20% on hosting your app, if you need a hand with that.

Build an app like Starbucks with us

You choose which platforms you want – your app can live on iOS, Android, web or even wearables.

This app will allow you to integrate your online store experience with physical stores, boosting transactions and your customer engagement. Just like the Starbucks app, you'll be able to offer rewards, discounts and more.

Let’s take a closer look at the Starbucks template, so you can see which features you’ll need for your coffeehouse app. There are 34 expertly designed UI/UX features you'll be able to choose from for this template.

Key features of the Starbucks app:

Account creation

Customers can create their own accounts with an email and password. They will be able to link payment methods and change their privacy settings.


Users can chat with each other, or with your customer service representatives. The chat updates in real-time.

Link social media

Customers can link accounts like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. They’ll also have the option of importing personal information from these platforms.

Coupon generator

This allows your customers to see which coupons are available for your service. They can select and apply coupons to get a discount.

Delivery estimator

Predicts how long it’ll take for a customer to get their order. This helps set customer expectations and keeps communication transparent.

Handpicked discounts

This can display personalised discounts for each customer. This feature is a great way to boost brand loyalty. This is one of the most profitable elements of the Starbucks app, we can help you with smart suggestions – upselling can feel like a service rather than a sales tactic.

Email login

Users can log into the app with their email address. Helpful, as their email is easier for customers to remember than a new username.

Express delivery

Customers can choose an express delivery option. This includes the expected delivery/pickup time.

Filter items

Customers can filter items by price, type, or any other metric. Customers can further refine filter settings. This is useful for users who are working on smaller screens that can't display as many options.

Forgot password

This option lets customers who’ve forgotten their password reset it through their email.

Help centre

You can put a FAQ here. Customers can find answers from commonly asked questions, which means less pressure on your customer service team.

In-app purchases

Obviously you’ll want users to make purchases in your app. They can unlock special features, different account tiers and more.


This feature is fully integrated with Google Maps. Customers can find your stores and get directions to their nearest one.

Navigation menu

Users can access their profile, the store, the map and other features from this menu. You can customise menu options to work with the other features you choose.

Payment history

When users link a payment method like a card or bank account, they can see transactions made in the app. This feature encourages transparency, as it’s easy for customers to keep track of everything they buy through the app.

Serve up success

You’ve picked all the features you need, told us how soon you need your app and got your fixed price. What now? You’ll have a kick-off call with your own dedicated expert and after that, you can leave everything to us. 

Your product expert will keep you updated on your app’s progress and you can make any changes you want and sign off designs. You’ll get a successful app, at the time we agreed together, for the price you were quoted. 

Ready to build an app like Starbucks? We make it really simple for yours to be a success. If you’d like to learn more, book a free demo and we’ll explain how you can do it.

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Ananth Ramanathan

VP Studio Store at Builder.ai

Ananth Ramanathan runs Studio Store business at Builder.ai with a mission of digitising a 1M+ micro SMEs in the next 5 years. He oversees the commercial, product, and customer success functions to rapidly scale Studio Store globally. Ananth's an experienced tech business operator, a failed entrepreneur, and an active angel investor.

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