A message from Starbucks ceo Kevin Johnson: A time for resilience

A letter to Starbucks Customers and Partners (employees) from Kevin Johnson, Starbucks ceo and president

This moment in time, as the world is united in an effort to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, requires coordinated action by governments, health care providers, businesses, and people in every community. Working together, we are making a difference and, together, we will overcome this unprecedented challenge.

I am inspired by our Starbucks store partners around the world who proudly wear the green apron and who are rising to the occasion. They demonstrate our resilience and our commitment to the communities we serve.

On Friday evening, we made the decision to close customer access to the cafes of all company-operated Starbucks stores across the U.S. and Canada and shifted to a drive-thru operating model. In cooperation with and guided by local government officials, our drive-thru and delivery continue to be available so that we can provide communities a range of food and beverage offerings.

We also committed to pay all Starbucks U.S. and Canada retail partners for the next 30 days whether or not their store is closed, or they are otherwise unable, or even uncomfortable, coming to work. We believe no partner should be asked to choose between work and their health.

On Saturday morning, something incredible happened. Our partners in every region around the U.S. and Canada showed up before dawn to open drive-thru-only experiences at their stores. They filled in for each other at short-staffed nearby stores. Our stores that could open, did.  Our partners showed up. They showed up for their communities.

Cameron Melcher, a store manager and Starbucks partner since 2008 who took over a new location in Manassas, Virginia, just this month, said it was never a question for him. “I’m thankful to have a store still functioning and still serving our community, a majority of which are now hospital workers and first responders,” Cameron said. “I know what we represent to people in our area, especially right now, and I didn’t want to see that falter.”

The experience we have gained by navigating the virus in China, also gives me confidence in our approach. Though the situation remains fluid, Starbucks stores in China are now on a solid path to recovery. I shared a bit about this last week at our Annual Meeting of Shareholders; the key takeaway is that we will continue to exceed public health requirements, where it comes to increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols and social distancing operating models, to create the safest possible environment in our stores.

Starbucks continues to act based on three simple principles: ensuring the health and well-being of our partners and customers, supporting local health officials and government leaders as they work to contain and mitigate this virus, and showing up as a responsible member of the 32,000 communities in which we are the Third Place.

It is the responsibility of every business to care for its employees during this time of uncertainty, shared sacrifice, and common cause. I hope to see many business leaders across this country doing all they can to retain jobs, pay employees, continue benefits, and demonstrate compassion as they make critical decisions. Not every decision is a financial one.

At Starbucks, we have also been doing more than ever in caring for our partners, extending childcare benefits, offering a new mental health benefit, and introducing catastrophe pay. Partners are the heartbeat of Starbucks, and we will continue to do whatever we can to support them.  

I want to extend a special thank you to our store managers – like Cameron—for their tireless efforts to lead our stores and recognize our baristas for going above and beyond during this time.

To our customers, I thank you for your continued understanding. These store adjustments create a temporary disruption to your Starbucks Experience. You can count on Starbucks to do our part, act on principle, and stay true to our mission and values.

I am optimistic that together we can overcome this challenge. The human experience is about overcoming adversity by being resilient, and that is certainly on display across the nation. We will overcome this. Our resilience will be rewarded.

With optimism,