Starbucks' (SBUX - Get Report) Kevin Johnson took the CEO hot seat today with one venti-sized challenge on his plate - how to reduce traffic congestion at the company's stores.

Johnson, who was appointed to COO and president in 2015 after joining the board in 2009, replaced Howard Schultz who served as CEO from 1987 to 2000 and again from 2008 until he stepped down Monday. When Schultz announced his departure in December, he touted Johnson for being "a wise and supportive resource for me" and told analysts that he was "better prepared" to be the CEO of Starbucks.

Better prepared or not, Johnson must find a solution to jam-packed Starbucks stores that may actually be costing the company sales. 

As both an entrepreneur and Starbucks customer, David Lewis, CEO and President of human resources outsourcing and consulting firm OperationsInc. and CEO and President of AllCountyJobs.com, says that "this is a big issue Kevin needs to solve."

"The primary real estate in their stores dedicated to upsell is adjacent to the line for those walking in to order vs. those picking up only," Lewis says.

Lewis criticized Starbucks' layout of its stores, in which the majority of mobile pay customers do not have to pass the food items on display, comprised of snacks and boxed lunches, near the registers to pick up their pre-ordered coffees.

"Does Starbucks know how much historically gets purchased off those marketing displays - items the consumer is not coming into the store to buy when they arrive?" Lewis explains. "These items are not selling the same way and at the same place, I surmise, when the customer bypasses all of that and heads to the pickup counter."

Starbucks has one big challenge it must overcome
Starbucks has one big challenge it must overcome

All in all, Lewis believes Johnson needs to transform Starbucks from being a "place where someone is in and out without any interaction with the displays and other marketing."

On a conference call in January, Johnson blamed congested lines as "the most significant contributing factor" to the company's lackluster 3% fiscal first-quarter same-store sales growth.

Eric Schiffer, CEO of online marketing agency DigitalMarketing.com, speculates that Starbucks likely is seeing congestion problems because they refuse to hire more baristas - which he argued they desperately need now that they have both mobile and in-store orders coming down the line.

"Starbucks stood for a great experience, but it's been a traitor to their brand by putting company profits over their customers' happiness and in doing [so], double crossing them," Schiffer said. "But it was a reckless strategy because customers don't want to wait in soul-crushing lines and would choose it the same way they'd choose elective dental surgery. And less baristas makes for a stressed staff, which only compounds the experience problem."

Schultz has promised to address the congestion issue, and to that end the company recently started testing a mobile pay only pickup store at its Seattle headquarters.

Plus, in February, TheStreet reviewed Starbucks' newly renovated store in New York City's Penn Station designed to tackle traffic jams. Despite designing the store to have a wider queue to make the line seem shorter and adding multiple registers, TheStreet waited 10 minutes to get a large black iced coffee. And the store was relatively empty.

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