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Starbucks adopts ‘to go’ model in response to coronavirus

Starbucks Corp. is doing its part to encourage social distancing.

The coffee giant announced a series of actions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that “we know are effective based on our experience in China.” Through at least Sunday, March 29, Starbucks is shifting to a “to go” model in all U.S. and Canadian stores. This includes a temporary phase-out of all in-store and patio seating. The retailer is also temporarily closing company-operated stores in high-traffic area such as shopping malls or university campuses. 

In addition, Starbucks will temporarily close or reduce operating hours of stores in areas with high clusters of COVID-19, such as New York and Seattle. Other adaptations in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic include a modified condiment bar in all stores and changes to how mobile orders are handed off on a store-by-store basis. For handling of cash, a designated employee will handle all cash transactions at the POS terminal and drive-thru window, with gloves allowed but not required.

Customers will still be able to walk up and order at the counter, through the “order ahead” feature in the Starbucks app, via the drive-thru, and use the Starbucks Delivers on-demand delivery service in available markets.

"As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary to protect our partners, customers and communities,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive VP and president, U.S. company-operated business and Canada, said in a letter sent to all Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada. “Every community’s needs are incredibly different, and we are prepared to adjust as needed. We want to make sure we play a constructive role by taking responsible actions, in partnership with the CDC and local public health authorities, so we can continue to do what’s right for our partners and customers."

For employees, Starbucks will invest up to $10 million in its Caring Unites Partners (CUP) fund and other global resources to support virus-related employee needs beyond pay. The company is also temporarily expanding its Care@Work childcare support program with an increase in back-up care days from 10 to 20 and reimbursement of up to $125 per day for use of backup caregivers and centers not included in the Care@Work provider network. 

Other recent steps Starbucks has taken in response to COVID-19 include offering catastrophic pay to employees exposed to the virus, upping store cleaning regimens, and pausing the use of reusable cups. Starbucks temporarily closed its almost 4,300 stores in China earlier this year, but as of Feb. 27, 2020 had reopened about 85% of them.

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