Starbucks temporarily moving to primarily drive-thru-only in U.S., confirms expanded catastrophe pay for worried partners

A letter to Starbucks partners from Rossann Williams, evp and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada.

Dear partners,

Thank you again to the nearly 6,000 partners who joined me and our executive leaders this week for our second live discussion on COVID-19. We are navigating this crisis minute-by-minute, day-by-day, adjusting as we learn more. Your understanding, flexibility and straight talk are immensely appreciated, and much needed in this moment. Today, we have some important new information about additional steps we are taking to ensure your safety and stability during this crisis. 

The magnitude of managing through this situation is the single biggest challenge many of us have faced in our lifetime, and I am continually moved by your compassion for each other, our customers and our communities during this exceptionally difficult time. With daily news from friends and family members getting laid off and businesses closing, we need one another more than ever. We need to be a different kind of company. 

I heard two things very clearly during our conversation: your concerns for safety and the need for clarity around COVID-19 catastrophe pay.

Let me be clear: Just as we have for nearly 50 years, Starbucks will always make the courageous decisions, even if they’re difficult ones. And today, those decisions are informed by evolving facts and science and the legislative requirements for municipalities across the United States.

Closing Cafés and Going to Drive Thru & Delivery Only

Since the onset of the outbreak, we’ve worked to exceed public health requirements by taking actions in our cafés like expanding sanitizing and cleaning processes and removing furniture to reduce risk and create the safest environments we can for partners who want to come to work. Even so, we’ve all recognized over the last week the challenges and complexities of trying to reduce “social gathering” in our cafés even as we removed furniture and reduced our services to grab-and-go. While we have worked hard to exceed any public health requirements, our cafés in some areas are experiencing high traffic, and we need to do more to prevent the spread of this virus. This is a crisis that is moving quickly, and we need to stay ahead of it and do our part, recognizing this is often confusing, frustrating and dynamic. Today, we are making the decision to close access to our cafés altogether for two weeks and limiting our services to Drive Thru only. Some exceptions will be made for those cafés serving in or around hospitals and health care centers in our efforts to serve frontline responders and health care workers. These changes apply to our company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada, and our licensed partners will make decisions for their properties.

Partners will still be paid for the next month, even if you choose to stay home

While these changes may cause some inconvenience to our loyal customers, I want you to know there is nothing more important right now than your safety and that of your family. If you feel you’re taking a risk by coming to work or fear carrying the virus, please stay home. We will help you manage through your time off. As we have said several times since the beginning of this crisis, no Starbucks partner needs to choose between their health and coming to work. Any partner serving in our stores that remain open are there because they want to be there to serve our community at this time. To guarantee that, we are going to pay all store partners for the next 30 days, whether you come to work or choose to stay home. We understand the pressure you may feel, and we hope this brings you some reassurance that, especially in difficult times, we are a different kind of company.   

We are also encouraging other major employers to do the same to support retail workers at this time.  As government relief efforts move forward and become clearer, we will continue to do our part and will update you with additional information.   

Many of you are also feeling the personal impact of COVID-19 outside of work. To help with critical issues like childcare and financial hardship, we’ve temporarily adjusted our Care@Work benefit to include 20 days of backup care and the option to use out-of-network caregivers, including friends and family, with a reimbursement of up to $125 per day.

If you have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and have exhausted available resources like Care@Work and catastrophe, vacation and sick pay, you can apply for a CUP Fund grant. Applications will be expedited and the three-year restriction between grants waived.

Finally, because mental health is just as important as your physical health, our Employee Assistance Program provides six free counseling sessions for you and your household members. If mindfulness and meditation are what’s needed, you have a free subscription to Headspace.

Supporting First Responders, Health Care Workers, and the Communities We Serve

Let’s be real. Lattes aren’t “essential.” But in times of crisis, the government asks convenient food and beverage outlets to remain open when possible for pickup, Drive Thru, or delivery. Like grocery stores, gas stations, and other daily conveniences, our stores are part of a support system the government is counting on to be in service to the community. Each “shelter in place” and other city or state closure notices that have been announced (as of today) explicitly call for convenient food establishments to remain open, if possible. This is especially important to serve thousands of frontline responders and health care workers who are on the front line, which is why our stores in or around hospitals, or communities with limited food options, will remain open with partners who are explicitly choosing to continue to serve. We will continue to work very closely with local, state and the federal government to continually assess how best to stay open, stay safe, and be part of the solution during this time.

Together, we have successfully navigated many challenges throughout our history, and managing COVID-19 will be no different. You have my word, we will continue to stay true to Our Mission and Values, making the right decisions even when it’s hard, and caring for you and our customers.

Should you need to talk with someone directly about your personal situation, I encourage you to reach out to your manager. The Partner Resources Support Center (PRSC) at 888-SBUX-411, is also standing by to support you.

With gratitude,
Rossann