In a surprising maneuver, Starbucks has announced that it will be closing stores in major cities across the nation.
Starbucks is planning to close 16 locations across several American cities due to safety concerns. The coffee giant says the decision comes as these stores have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue operations. As such, cafes in Los Angeles, Seattle, Oregon, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C, would permanently shut their doors by the end of July. “We look forward to continuing to serve these communities and encourage customers to visit other stores in these areas,” a spokesperson told CNN Business.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the move was prompted by various incidents regarding drug use by customers and other members of the public in these location locations. As such, Starbucks Senior Vice Presidents of U.S. Operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson shared the company’s desire to make its cafes safe for guests and employees. “We read every incident report you file and it’s a lot,” she said in a public letter. “We want you to know that creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place is our top priority.”
The letter added that the programs and benefits to ensure Starbucks customers feel more supported and empowered include robust safety training for all partners and the ability to modify operations. These measures may also involve closing a restroom, or permanently shutting a store, where safety is no longer possible. It also said that benefits to support the mental health of guests and help create emotional and financial safety are available, along with other support programs. Moreover, the company is offering active shooter training to make employees feel safer in their stores.
The store closures are part of Starbucks’ broader effort to revamp the coffee giant. This vision was outlined in a different letter from the company’s CEO Howard Schultz. “We need to reinvent Starbucks for the future,” he wrote, noting that the chain needs to radically improve employee experiences. He added that based on feedback from staff members, the eatery will strive to create a welcoming atmosphere of safety and kindness in their stores. Schultz stepped into the CEO role for the third time in April and has spent time listening to workers’ concerns.
He’s also been working to dissuade workers from unionizing, asking them to steer clear of unions even before he formally returned to the company as chief executive. But the unionization drive has only been growing, according to CNN Business. Since late June, the National Labor Relations Board has certified unions at 133 Starbucks locations with more than 3,400 hourly employees among them. The NLRB also certified decisions against unionization at 15 locations. Elections are currently underway at dozens of additional stores.
Meanwhile, the Starbucks overhaul plan includes five steps referred to as “Bold Moves.” The process aims to re-envision how the chain brings its mission to life, renew the well-being of retail partners by radically improving their experience, reimaging the store experience for greater connection and a positive planet impact, reconnect with customers by delivering memorable and personalized moments, and redesign partnership by creating new ways to thrive together. “In a world that is increasingly isolating and often divided, Starbucks needs to operate in a way that knits together the fabric of our neighborhoods,” the letter added.