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Big Changes Coming to Starbucks in Kroger, Airports

If you're a fan of the coffee chain (or just need some energy to shop), prepare to be excited.

Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Free Report has been in Kroger  (KR) - Get Free Report and airport locations for well over two decades.

The ease of being able to add essentially a coffee kiosk or mini coffee shop to airports and many retailers like Kroger  (KR) - Get Free Report, Hy-Vee among many others, has been a great asset to both the host company and Starbucks. The mini locations are licensed to run by the retailers and pay a royalty or percentage back to Starbucks for use of its business space.

Since the locations are run by the retailers, the coffee shops experiences have not been consistent per Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer of Starbucks. Changes are in the works to make the customer experience on par with that of the franchise and corporate locations across the U.S.

Starbucks Gives You Free Coffee

Regular Starbucks customers have enjoyed the Starbucks loyalty program since its launch in 2008. Originally called Starbucks Card Rewards before becoming My Starbucks Rewards in 2009, it allows customers to earn Starbucks Stars (the chain's version of points) towards free drinks, add-ons, and food items. Reward customers can receive free refills on brewed coffee and tea. Customers who are signed up for rewards also get a free birthday treat each year.

Starbucks Stars accumulate by earning two stars for each dollar spent at participating Starbucks locations, either through the Starbucks phone app or by using a Starbucks gift card that is registered to accumulate Stars. Any purchase made of Starbucks brands like K-cups, premade coffee drinks or other prepackaged products that have a Stars code on them also count. Stars can be added to the loyalty account by scanning the receipt with the Starbucks app.

Kroger Getting the Full Starbucks Experience

While customers clearly being able to enjoy a fresh cup of joe from Starbucks while shopping through Kroger or another store, there was one hiccup in the system -- these locations use the point of sale system of the stores they reside in rather than the native Starbucks one. 

That means that many Starbucks locations inside these stores have been unable to allow customers to use their reward points or place orders in advance using the Starbucks app. This has been a sore point for customers who want to use Stars or redeem a birthday gift in the past.

But now that's about to change.

Brewer announced the change at Starbucks Investor Day on Sept. 13 in Seattle, saying that the experience customers were having at licensed locations was "inconsistent".

To remedy the issue, Starbucks will roll out a new program called Starbucks Connect to licensed locations so customers can still get their Rewards benefits.

"Both rewards and mobile ordering have become key to the business in recent years, with accelerated growth during the pandemic," Brewer said.