Tata Starbucks is planning to launch drive-through outlets and home deliveries as it works on a new business model to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a top company official.

The company, which is a 50:50 joint venture between Tata Consumer Products Ltd (formerly know as Tata Global Beverages) and Starbucks Corporation, termed the ongoing situation as "something our businesses have not experienced in many decades".

The coffee chain is also confident of old patrons coming back once the lockdown is over, even as it is working on new business model to "thoughtfully expand" into areas with potential customers.

"In the next few weeks, we are looking at announcing our first Drive Thru store in India. This will allow customers to engage with the brand in new and innovative ways," Tata Starbucks CEO Navin Gurnaney told PTI in an email interview.StarbucksAlso ReadDid Starbucks miss the co-working boat?

Besides, it is also increasing its focus on digital solutions like digital payments and transactions through mobile app.

Tata Starbucks is also working on home delivery option to reach consumers' door step. According to experts, post pandemic, people would prefer fewer visits to the crowded places such as stores and QSRs.

"In the current conditions, one of most convenient ways to engage with our customers is through home deliveries, which allows them to enjoy their favourite beverages and food from the safety of their own homes," he added.

Tata Starbucks is planning to expand its ecommerce as part of its omni-channel retail strategy.

"We are currently using ecommerce for our gift cards. Going forward we will certainly have new and exciting announcements to make in this space," Gurnaney said, adding that the current situation is going to drive digital, new ways of working and connecting with customers.

Over expansion plans, Gurnaney replied Tata Starbucks would continue its growth with "optimism" in the Indian market by adding more stores, and also introduce international bestsellers and innovative offerings inspired by India cuisines in its menu to delight its customers.

"Expansion is key component for our growth and ranks high in our business plan. Each year, our aim is to thoughtfully expand into cities/neighbourhoods where we feel our customers want to see us," he said.

"Our optimism and commitment to the long-term growth potential in India remains intact during the crisis period. We are confident we will be back to business and serving the Starbucks Experience once the lockdown period is over," he added.

Tata Starbucks presently operates 185 stores across 11 cities in the country.

On the impact of the pandemic on the business, Gurnani said: "The economic impact of the pandemic is something we cannot escape, and we understand that our customers may also take time to recover from."

The company is confident of its relationships with its loyal customers, who not only come for the coffee but stay for the experience.

"We are certain the Starbucks Experience will bring them back. We are continuing our efforts using the power of digital mediums and new business models to ensure that we are in touch with our customers through this difficult time," he added.

The company has also asked its property owners to waive the rentals due to closure of stores and impact on the business.

"The position we are in today, is something our businesses have not experienced in many decades.

"We are very appreciative of everybody's sensitisation towards this scenario and look forward to putting this phase behind us and moving on to strengthening our partnerships," he said.

Tata Starbucks has also announced grants for its partners (employees) and offering benefits to support them and their families in response to COVID-19.

This includes pay and access to medical assistance. Any partners diagnosed with COVID-19 will be granted paid leave until they recover fully and are medically cleared to return to work. Moreover, partners who need to self-quarantine will be granted an additional 14 days paid leave.

"We are committed to ensuring that our partners (employees) should never have to choose between work and taking care of themselves. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and following all government directives in this regard. In this unprecedented time, we all must support each other, our customers and communities," said Gurnaney.

India is presently going through an unprecedented complete lockdown of three weeks, expected to end on April 14, to prevent the spread of the virus.

(Edited by Kanishk Singh)

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