Starbucks (SBUX 0.40%) is arguably the best-known coffee business in the world. The company has experienced a volatile few years since the outbreak of COVID-19. It was forced to close many of its locations to in-person visitors. Sales fell by 11% in 2020. 

That said, it's bouncing back since economies started reopening in 2021. Further, changing consumer habits, like increased digital ordering, could prove a lasting advantage. Let's consider if investors should buy Starbucks stock today. 

Consumers are liking Starbucks' digital ordering options

In the last decade, Starbucks has grown from $13.3 billion in sales in 2012 to $29 billion in 2021. The company runs a mixed model of owning some locations and licensing others. While it operates internationally, the U.S. and China comprise 15,650 and 5,761 of its total of over 34,000 locations. China is considerably lagging behind the rest of the world regarding removing business restrictions. As a result, Starbucks' comparable store sales in China, which exclude the impact of new store openings and closings, fell 44% in its most recent quarter, which ended on July 3.

Despite that, Starbucks' net sales of $8.2 billion in the quarter ended in July were an all-time quarterly record. Several factors are driving the growth of Starbucks as the world recovers from COVID-19. It has improved its loyalty program by making it easier to earn rewards and save customized orders on its app, which has helped increase active members to 27.4 million in the U.S. alone. Those members were responsible for 53% of U.S. company-operated revenue in the third quarter. As a member, I have noticed how much easier it is to save my favorite drink in my profile and hit reorder whenever I want my caffeine fix. This is a convenient benefit, considering the myriad customizations Starbucks allows on drinks.

Moreover, mobile orders, drive-thru, and delivery totaled 72% of U.S. revenue in Q3. Digital orders became imperative at the pandemic's onset, and management quickly emphasized the feature. This could prove a long-lasting benefit. Excluding drive-thru, the other digital options do not require a Starbucks employee to take an order and process a payment. As customers use these ordering options more often, it could reduce the strain on Starbucks locations' employee shortages, which have become a struggle since the outbreak of COVID-19.

That creates the potential for Starbucks to become an even more profitable business in the long run after fully recovering from the coronavirus setbacks. Starbucks' earnings per share have grown from $0.90 in 2012 to $3.54 in 2021.

An excellent time to buy Starbucks stock

SBUX PS Ratio Chart.

SBUX PS Ratio data by YCharts.

Starbucks is trading at a price-to-sales ratio of 3.2, near the lower end of its historical range for this metric over the last decade, as the chart shows above. The price-to-sales ratio measures what the market is willing to pay per dollar of sales for Starbucks. The lower value, according to this metric, is partly because the market is concerned about the risks to Starbucks in the near term. Still, even during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, Starbucks' sales only fell by 11%. For that reason, and the long-lasting benefits mentioned above, Starbucks stock is a buy right now