June 12, 2014 at 11:09 am

Starbucks will let coffee drinkers wirelessly charge phones

Starbucks Corp. customers will soon find it easier to energize their devices while they get a jolt of caffeine.

The world’s largest coffee chain is teaming up with Duracell Powermat to let customers recharge mobile devices wirelessly, instead of hunting for available wall outlets. Customers can place their compatible devices atop so-called Powermat Spots on counters and tables to recharge them, Seattle- based Starbucks said Thursday in a statement.

While shops in Boston and San Jose, California, already offer the Powermat service, a national rollout begins today in Starbucks’ company-operated stores and Teavana outlets. The company, which has more than 20,500 stores worldwide, plans pilot programs in Europe and Asia within a year.

Coffee-selling chains have long experimented with ways to encourage customers to stay longer — using music, comfortable seating and earth-toned walls. More recently, free Wi-Fi and mobile payments have been key to wooing customers addicted to their smartphones and tablets. Starbucks began offering free Internet in 2010 and started testing a service this year that lets customers order items ahead of time on their phone.

Duracell Powermat is a venture between Procter & Gamble Co.’s Duracell brand and closely held Powermat Technologies. The Powermat Spots comply with a standard developed by the Power Matters Alliance, whose members include AT&T Inc., BlackBerry Ltd., HTC Corp., Huawei Technology Co. and Microsoft Corp. They’re working to make the technology available on more phones — either preinstalled or as an add-on feature.

“The two-pronged power-plug dates back to the era of the horse drawn carriage, so that today’s announcement marks the first meaningful upgrade to the way we access power in well over a century,” Ran Poliakine, Powermat’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

The Powermat partnership is one of several tactics Starbucks is using to entice customers. It’s testing new lunch sandwiches in some cafes, aiming to get more of an afternoon crowd. And it’s opening a La Boulange-branded restaurant in Los Angeles today that serves cocktails and dinner items such as burgers. Starbucks bought La Boulange bakery in 2012.

The company’s endorsement of Powermat should ensure that the technology becomes the industry standard, Stassi Anastassov, president of Duracell, said in the statement.

“When Starbucks introduced Wi-Fi in their stores in 2001, 95 percent of devices didn’t have Wi-Fi, and multiple standards hampered the industry,” Anastassov said. “Starbucks’ plans to offer Powermat nationally is likely to settle any lingering standards questions.”