Starbucks details plan to reopen 90% of U.S. stores by June 1 — with big changes

Marianne Wilson
Starbucks employee with mask

There are some major changes afoot — temporarily — as Starbucks Corp. ramps up to open its U.S. stores, which have been closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Starting on May 4, the coffee giant will begin opening its stores in the U.S. and Canada. It expects to have approximately 90% of all company-operated U.S. Starbucks stores reopened by early June in various formats with enhanced safety protocols and modified schedules. The emphasis will be on mobile order and pay. Starbucks noted that pre-COVID, 80% of U.S. store customer visits were for to-go take-away.

Customers will not be allowed inside most of the locations. Instead, orders will be picked up at an “entryway hand-off,” a new area set up in the entry of stores where customers can pick up their pre-ordered beverages without actually entering the café, or at the drive-thru.

Later in the summer, Starbucks plans to add curbside service in locations where parking is available.

“Similar to our experience in China, we are transitioning into a new phase of operations we call monitor and adapt,” Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson said on the chain’s call to discuss its second-quarter earnings. “We are now leveraging digital tools that enable us to monitor the COVID-19 situation in every community across the U.S. and leverage a variety of service options from contactless service, entryway pickup, curbside delivery where parking is available and at-home delivery, that allow us to thoughtfully reopen stores and scale up operations."

At the stores that are open to the public (about 30 initially), customers can place an order inside and take it to-go (they can also use the order ahead and pay feature in the Starbucks app and pick it up at the counter.) Only a limited number of customers will be allowed inside at one time, and floor markers and signs will promote social distancing. The seating areas will not be open.   

“We are making sure that we provide a safe environment for our customers and for our partners,” said Roz Brewer, COO and group president, Americas, on the call. “And we will monitor what happens as shelter-in is lifted in certain regions and areas and then begin to reopen the cafe stores.”

Additionally, Starbucks employees will now have a “pre-check” that includes a temperature check as they start their shift. They also will be provided with facial coverings and gloves. 

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