Starbucks will shift entirely to a “to-go” model at its company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least three weeks, asking its customers to refrain from using seats or lingering longer than it takes to order and leave with a cup of coffee.
The Seattle-based coffee giant, which built a business around the idea of a “third place” separate from home and work, also said it will temporarily close stores in areas such as shopping malls and college campuses, and in communities hard hit by COVID-19 cases.
In addition, the company says it is modifying the condiment bar in its stores and allowing employees to use gloves when handling cash, among other steps to address the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The steps are in line with “social distancing” recommendations from public health officials, designed to minimize the spread of the virus and the resulting disease.
Starbucks employees were informed of the news Sunday afternoon in a letter from Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president of the company’s U.S. company-operated businesses and Canadian operations.
“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,” Williams wrote.
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson addressed the issue in an earlier message to customers. The company previously announced that its annual meeting on Wednesday of this week will be entirely virtual.