A message from Starbucks ceo Kevin Johnson: Preparing for the next phase in the U.S.

To All U.S. Starbucks Partners:

As I write to you on this beautiful spring day in Seattle, I am reflecting on the fragility of the human experience. Six months ago, who could have predicted the world would be united in a common cause: overcoming the human impacts of COVID-19 – the loss of life, feelings of isolation and loneliness, concerns about health and fears of economic uncertainty. But here we are, navigating this together.

During times of adversity, values are tested. I remain inspired by your resilience and am optimistic that together we can overcome this challenge. Words cannot capture the immense pride and gratitude I have for you, my Starbucks partners, as you demonstrate support for one another, your customers and the thousands of communities we serve. During this overwhelming and difficult time, you have shown up and stayed true to the Mission and Values we stand for, and I am forever grateful. 

Starbucks partners are navigating this dynamic situation together in more than 80 markets around the world by making decisions based on three simple principles:

  • Prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and customers;
  • Playing a constructive role in supporting health and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of this virus; and
  • Showing up in a positive and responsible way to serve our communities.

After several weeks of isolation, as many markets around the world have directed people to “shelter at home,” we are beginning to see progress. Around the world, the response to this crisis has followed a familiar path. As COVID-19 entered each market, governments have focused on mitigating the spread of the virus. This has required schools, institutions and businesses like Starbucks to take uniform actions to embrace social distancing, to close spaces and to implement preventative methods focused on reducing the strain on hospitals and saving lives. Convenient food establishments and grocery stores are considered by most governments part of the essential infrastructure. As such, we were able to remain open, where possible and with safety protocols and limited operations, to offer food and beverages to our communities, particularly to the millions of heroic health care workers and front-line responders who cannot stay at home.

With governments, health care professionals, businesses and citizens all working together, there is evidence many markets have in fact “flattened the curve” and are now beginning to see a decline in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is prompting many to define the next steps that will appropriately prioritize health concerns while, at the same time, take thoughtful and measured steps to serve our communities.

As we have experienced in China, we are now transitioning to a new phase that can best be described as “monitor and adapt.” This means every community will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and people and businesses in that community will begin to adapt. Gradually, more schools and businesses will open.

What does this mean for Starbucks? As was the case in China, this means we will gradually expand and shift the customer experiences we enable in our stores. For example, some Starbucks stores will continue as drive-thru only, others may utilize the mobile ordering experience for contactless pickup and delivery and others may reopen for “to-go” ordering. As we experienced in China, this will be a journey and we are thoughtfully preparing for this next phase as we adapt in the U.S.

To support field leaders in these decisions, we have developed a data-rich dashboard to provide comprehensive information, including government data on confirmed cases and trends about COVID-19 and how that may influence decisions at the individual store level. As the ability to test for COVID-19 increases, we’ll be able to continuously enhance our monitoring capabilities.

We are ready for this new, dynamic period. More than 60% of our store formats in the U.S. include a drive-thru, and approximately 80% of all customer orders were placed “on-the-go” even prior to COVID-19. We have tested a variety of service options in more than 300 stores across the U.S. over the last few weeks, including contactless service, entryway pickup, curbside delivery and at-home delivery. We are finding new, innovative ways to serve our communities safely while working hard to exceed public health requirements and adjust to new customer expectations. Thanks to our digital leadership, we are positioned to evolve the Starbucks experience for millions of our loyal customers.

While flexible store formats, digital leadership, and innovative data tools help, the decision of how to operate a store, and when to make changes, is a human one. While dozens of factors help inform the decisions, our field leaders look at four factors: the local status of the public health crisis, guidance from health and government officials, community sentiment and store operational readiness

This decision-making framework helps inform whether a store can begin to reopen utilizing an appropriate format. For Starbucks in the U.S., China and everywhere, there is a more important, final question: When and how? This is the unique responsibility Starbucks partners have to one another, to our customers and to our communities – do the right thing. Only by trying to exceed local, state and national health requirements will we be ready to serve our communities. Not all decisions are financial, and in a crisis like this, they must be secondary to the health and well-being of our partners and customers.

What does this all mean for you? As this framework guides field decisions, it means your local leaders will continue to keep you informed of what to expect, when your store may begin a reopen process, what type of store operation format will be used when it does reopen and what you can expect from a staffing and scheduling perspective. You will also hear more details from Rossann later this week on our approach to COVID-19 pay and benefits as we continue to prioritize partner care during this critical period.

Partners, this pandemic has touched every one of the 32,000 communities Starbucks serves around the world, creating tragic loss, intense anxiety, and now disruptive economic consequences. It has also brought out some of the best in humanity, including your continued demonstrations of resilience and commitment to supporting the communities we serve. These are the moments where the world experiences the very best of Starbucks. We are all adapting to this new reality and approaching this thoughtfully and true to the principles outlined above. As we monitor and adapt, we will support our communities, and we will grow stronger as Starbucks partners. That is Starbucks resilience at its best.

With gratitude,