Starbucks is ramping up the global expansion of its “community” store concept as part of a new commitment to make its stores more inclusive — and accessible.
Ahead of its annual shareholder meeting, the coffee giant announced plans to expand its community store footprint to 1,000 locations globally by 2030, both by opening new stores and rebranding existing ones. It currently has 150 community stores.
The concept provides dedicated programming and experiences that support economic opportunity in the local community and create “pathways to opportunity” for employees. Since it was first launched back in 2015, the community concept has grown around the world to include several store models. The U.S. locations focus on helping provide economic opportunity in rural andurban communities through local hiring, creating dedicated space for communities to come together for events, partnering with local artists and working with diverse contractors and sub-contractors or focus on supporting service members, veterans and military families.
Starbucks will use the American Human Development Index (HDI), developed and calculated by Measure of America (MoA), an initiative of the Social Science Research Council, to identify where its U.S. community stores could provide the most value and better serve vulnerable communities. The retailer said it will use the information to provide insight on where and how it expands its U.S. community store portfolio.
Accessible Design Standards
Noting that one in four American adults has a disability and all people experience changes to their physical or mental health, Starbucks said it it committing to design, test and scale more inclusive design standards and experiences across its store portfolio. It is currently testing tech solutions in select store locations that include speech-to-text technology, which provides a live visual display of speech for employees and customers to reference when placing or picking up an order.
It also is testing order readiness notifications through a customer order status board that visually provides an update and confirms when an order is ready.
The initiative will start in the U.S. and then expand globally, with the goal of ensuring that physical and digital Starbucks environments will meet an elevated standard of accessibility by 2030.
“These standards will provide customers with more options to enjoy both their in-store and digital Starbucks experiences by creating more ways to communicate both visually and audibly and by offering more tools to help customers navigate physical store environments,” the company stated.
These efforts build on other accessible design improvements during the last year. Since 2021, Starbucks has offered free Aira service, which connects people who are blind or have low-vision to trained, professional visual interpreters who provide instant access to visual information about the customer’s surroundings through a smartphone app. Starbucks also offers multiple formats of the menu including large-print and Braille menus in all stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Globally, Starbucks operates 11 “signing stores.”
Starbucks’ new commitments come as the company faces a union push that shows no signs of stopping.