27 March 2020 | US

Starbucks moves to drive-thru only in the US and Canada as 90% of closed stores in China re-open

World’s largest coffee chain closes public access to all US and Canada stores in the wake of coronavirus and pledges to pay affected staff for 30 days

A Starbucks drive-thru in Tukwila, Washington, USA



Starbucks has temporarily moved all of its US and Canada stores to drive-thru only, a measure affecting around 15,000 and 1,500 stores in each market respectively. With over 82,000 recorded coronavirus cases as of March 26 2020, the US has now overtaken China as the world’s highest rate of infection.
 
Addressing Starbucks’ coronavirus strategy in an open letter, Rossann Williams, Executive Vice President, President of US Company-operated Business and Canada, reiterated health and wellbeing was the coffee chain’s ‘priority number one’.
 
‘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,’ Williams wrote.
 
Williams added the measures were expected to last up to two weeks, with some exceptions made for stores located near hospitals or emergency services. She also confirmed Starbucks employees would be paid for the next two weeks, even if stores were closed or staff did not feel comfortable travelling to work.
 
In China, where a semblance of normality is beginning to return to daily life, around 90% of Starbucks stores closed by coronavirushave now re-opened, albeit with modified opening hours and operations. More than half of coffee chain’s 4,300+ Chinese stores had been closed since mid-February due to coronavirus, a move anticipated to have cost the Seattle-based company up to $430m in lost revenues.
 
Chinese authorities are preparing to lift some of the strict social distancing rules that have been in place across the country since mid-January 2020. However, health experts have warned lifting restrictions too soon could lead to a second wave of infections peaking in August 2020.
 

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