(Bloomberg) -- Starbucks Corp. doesn’t want you to have to shout to order your iced latte.

The coffee chain’s new and renovated stores include materials like baffles on the ceiling that help to reduce background noise and reverberations. That could make it easier for guests — especially those with hearing loss — to communicate while also dampening the din that can make it difficult for baristas to discern what customers are saying. 

Such mishaps frustrate both diners and workers, who deal with complaints if a customer gets a hot americano instead of an iced one or a butter croissant and not the chocolate version. A study of the restaurant industry from research firm Intouch Insight shows that drive-thru orders are accurate only 86% of the time and errors can cost tens of thousand of dollars.

“Imagine you’ve got all that background noise happening, and then you’ve got a window open in front of you, and you’re trying to communicate with a customer,” said Sara Trilling, president of Starbucks North America, in an interview. Improved acoustics “will translate to order accuracy and just a better customer experience overall,” she added.

The baffles, which are a ceiling treatment that helps to absorb sound, will also help baristas at the register and customers who could miss their name being called in a noisy store.

Quieter spaces are one example of how Starbucks is thinking about its cafes as it further expands around the globe. In the US, Starbucks plans to add about 650 stores in the fiscal year ending in October, and it’s shooting for 20,000 longer term, up from more than 16,300 today. The acoustic treatment is part of a design framework for new locations and for the roughly 1,000 US shops that will be renovated this fiscal year.

Another core tenet of the global expansion, which is the main focus of this year’s $3 billion of capital expenditures, is to build more of what Starbucks calls “purpose-defined stores” that can cater to trends such as demand for iced beverages and to-go-orders, the company has said. 

Locations built to serve hot coffee have at times struggled with the surging popularity of cold drinks, which require copious amounts of ice. The pandemic, meanwhile, sparked a rush to online orders, which are easier to customize, overburdening baristas. 

Drive-thrus are a big part of the plan. As many as 80% of new US locations opening this fiscal year will have them, according to the company. About 60% had drive-thrus in 2020, a share that rose to 70% by November 2023.

“We are heavily, heavily investing in drive-thrus,” said Trilling, whose job includes improving conditions for Starbucks’ restaurant workers. The company will also continue to develop locations dedicated solely to pickup or drive-thru, although Trilling said that many new locations will still have dining rooms.

Starbucks is using the Siren System, a setup that brings everything needed for making cold drinks closer together, to make existing stores more productive. Baristas tap buttons to dispense milk or ice instead of fetching them from refrigerators, while blenders and syrup pumps are positioned within reach. The system will be in 500 US locations this year, Trilling said.

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“It does unlock productivity benefits in capacity-constrained stores,” said Trilling. “That capacity can also be used to connect with customers.” Starbucks encourages baristas to chat with diners and make “human connection.” 

In addition, Starbucks said that it has expanded the number of its stores that use less energy and water and produce less waste. The company last year switched to smaller “nugget” ice cubes, which Trilling said require less energy to make.

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