Starbucks is reopening its cafes as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease around the country. The coffee giant closed about half of its stores in the United States amid the pandemic while the remaining locations offered drive-thru service only.
The company’s CEO explained in a letter to customers that 85 percent of Starbucks stores will be back open by May 9. Another 5 percent will resume operations by June 1. Certain restrictions will remain in place to protect employees and customers from contagion.
Critics have expressed concern about whether reopening businesses too quickly could lead to a resurgence in the number of coronavirus cases. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 1.2 million Americans have tested positive for the virus and more than 71,000 have died. CEO Kevin Johnson says Starbucks is monitoring cases at the local level and will make additional changes as needed.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dining Areas Remain Closed But Customers Can Pick Up Orders From the Counter In Some Locations
The days of meeting at a Starbucks for a business meeting or interview are still in the distant future. The seating areas will remain closed to customers for the foreseeable future.
But coffee lovers will be able to enter certain stores again, “at select locations where social distancing can be maintained.” According to a release from the company, customers can order coffee and food from the counter and take it to-go.
Customers are also encouraged to use the “order ahead” feature in the Starbucks app to further limit their time inside the store. At some locations, a barista will meet you at the door with your order.
Heavy has reached out to Starbucks’ corporate communications senior manager for clarification about how many people would be allowed inside a store at any one time. We also asked whether the decision to allow counter service is up to the individual franchises. This post will be updated once we hear back. Find the Starbucks closest to you by clicking here.
2. Starbucks Is Encouraging Customers to Pay Ahead of Time Through the App
Starbucks is encouraging customers to pay ahead of time using the company’s app in order to further limit physical contact with its employees. CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to customers that the company predicts the “mobile app will become the dominant form of payment” because “the handling of cash creates consumer concerns about the spread of viruses.”
According to eMarketer, more than 25 million Americans were using the Starbucks app by the end of 2019. The app is second only to Apple Pay, which has been downloaded by more than 27 million people in the United States. Johnson says the Starbucks app includes new features intended to simplify the pick-up process as stores reopen. Customers can select curbside or drive-thru pick-up, or choose to have a barista meet them at the door. Delivery is also an option in some areas.
Paying with a debit or credit card is still an option. Starbucks workers are all required to wear protective masks during shifts. Wearing gloves is optional. The company also gave workers an extra $3 per hour as part of its “Starbucks Service Pay.” This system remains in place until May 31. Catastrophe pay was available for employees diagnosed with the coronavirus.
3. Nearly All of Starbucks’ Stores in China Have Reopened & CEO Kevin Johnson Says the Company Learned From That Experience
Before beginning to reopen coffee shops in the United States, Starbucks first tackled China. The company says about 98 percent of Starbucks stores in that country have reopened while maintaining safety protocols to guard against the virus. Those measures include enhanced sanitizing procedures and requiring workers to wear masks.
CEO Kevin Johnson explained in an interview with Good Morning America that the company learned from its experience in China and is applying the same safety principles in the United States. He noted this was possible because China is several weeks ahead of the U.S. in terms of the trajectory of COVID-19.
Johnson explained that specific Starbucks locations will continue to make relevant changes as stores reopen. He said that the company watches the number of coronavirus cases by county and will “monitor and adapt” as needed. In a letter to customers, Johnson added that he wants Starbucks to be viewed as a comforting place as the nation begins to ease stay-at-home orders:
As so many in our family of partners come back this week, responsibly re-opening stores across the United States, we are poised to adapt very rapidly, in meaningful ways that enhance the Starbucks Experience for our partners, customers, and the communities we serve. We are accelerating many forward-looking initiatives to address the realities of the current situation. We do this to provide a safe, familiar and convenient experience for our customers.
These adaptations will reinforce the concept of the third place— a warm and welcoming place, outside of our homes and our workspaces, where we connect and build community. We think of the third place as a mindset — a feeling of comfort that uplifts customers everywhere, and in every way, they experience Starbucks. And the third place has never been more relevant than now, as communities seek to reconnect and heal.
Health officials tell us it could be many months until there are effective COVID-19 treatments and a vaccine. As we gradually come out of isolation, people will crave the connection and community that are fundamental to humanity. However, customers will want experiences that are safe, familiar and convenient. With health and safety prioritized, we are defining the future of Starbucks to meet evolving customer expectations and societal change.
4. Starbucks Coffee Is Still Free For Health Care Workers & First Responders
As shut-down and stay-at-home orders became more widespread nationwide in March, Starbucks began offering free coffee to those working on the front lines to fight the spread of the virus. Anyone who identified as a health care worker or first responder received a tall brewed coffee for free.
Starbucks originally planned to keep this offer going through May 3 but has since extended it until the end of May. The company announced that between March 25 and April 23, more than one million free coffees had been given out. Heavy has reached out to the company for an updated figure.
According to a release from the company, the Starbucks Foundation has donated $500,000 to support health care workers in the United States. Additional donations have been made to help supply personal protective equipment. Starbucks says it has given out more than $3 million worldwide since the pandemic began.
5. Starbucks Took a Substantial Financial Hit Amid the Coronavirus
Starbucks’ financial bottom line has taken a substantial hit since the coronavirus began to spread around the world. In early April, the company forecasted that second-quarter earnings would drop by nearly half.
According to CNBC, Starbucks reported a global net income of about $328 million for the quarter that ended on March 29. By comparison, in 2019, the company earned more than $663 million during the same time period. Starbucks anticipated an even greater drop in the months ahead.
According to its website, Starbucks has more than 30,000 retail stores around the world. About 15,000 of those are in the United States. More than 8,000 are company-operated and another 6,200 are licensed, according to 2019 statistics.