Starbucks developed a 'contactless' system to avoid touching customer's reusable mugs and it shows how hard it is to return to business as usual

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Starbucks developed a 'contactless' system to avoid touching customer's reusable mugs and it shows how hard it is to return to business as usual
Starbucks
  • Starbucks will allow reusable mugs in stores for the first time since March 2020.
  • Baristas are not supposed to actually touch the cups.
  • After lifting mask requirements, this is another step towards returning to normal.

Starbucks just announced that customers will once again be able to bring in their own mugs later this month. To encourage sustainability, Starbucks will continue to offer a 10 cent discount for drinks in reusable cups.

Starbucks suspended the use of reusable cups in March 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in stores. Now they're back, but the process won't look quite the same. In the announcement, the company also included new protocol for filling cups that keeps baristas from ever actually touching the cup.

Read more: Nuggs won over Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, who is now leading the plant-based chicken nugget startup's $50 million Series B

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Customers remove the lid on their reusable cup themselves while the baristas checks that the cup is clean. "Only clean cups will be accepted; Starbucks partners will not be able to clean them for customers" the statement says.

Then the reusable cup goes inside a ceramic mug while the barista prepares the drink, without ever actually touching the cup. When it's done, the mug with the reusable cup inside is placed in the drink handoff area, where the customer can grab it.

This new reusable cup protocol begins on June 22. For now, Starbucks says they can only be used in-stores, and not in drive-thrus, though the company says it is " testing safe options for allowing personal reusable cups via the drive thru."

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Life is slowly returning back to a pre-pandemic normal as more people are vaccinated. In May, Starbucks lifted mask requirements for vaccinated customers in stores in response to revised guidelines from the CDC. Employees will continue to be required to wear double masks.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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