Starbucks offers free coffee to coronavirus health care workers, first responders

The workers are eligible to receive a free tall-sized hot or iced coffee from Wednesday through May 3

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Starbucks will offer free coffee to workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, the coffeehouse chain announced Wednesday.

The Seattle-based company said the offer would apply to first responders and front-line workers, such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers and firefighters. The workers are eligible to receive a free tall-sized hot or iced coffee from Wednesday through May 3.

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“[I was doing my] last checklist as we close down my store for at least 2 weeks. I found a couple of paramedics wandering about- so offered them coffee and Almond Milk Chais!” Michelle, a manager at a Starbucks store in Redlands, California, wrote on the company’s internal message board. “We so appreciate all of our first Responders - medical staff and grocery workers too! I’m so proud of all of our partners and how naturally we come together in times of need.”

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Aside from the free coffee, the company’s charitable arm, The Starbucks Foundation, will donate $500,000 toward coronavirus response efforts. The donation will be split equally, with $250,000 earmarked for Operation Gratitude to help send 50,000 care packages to health care workers and $250,000 tabbed for Direct Relief to fund protective gear and other key medical supplies.

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SBUXSTARBUCKS CORPORATION66.34-3.56-5.09%

The plan was inspired by similar efforts at individual store locations around the U.S., where employees acting on their own initiative donated coffee to local health care workers and first responders, the company said. Like most U.S. businesses, the coronavirus outbreak has forced Starbucks to drastically scale back its operations in recent days.

Starbucks informed employees last Friday that the chain would shut down its traditional stores at company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada and shift to drive-thru and delivery services only. The restricted service policy will stay in place for at least two weeks.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the decision to shift to drive-thru services was made in consultation with local government officials.

“The experience we have gained by navigating the virus in China, also gives me confidence in our approach,” Johnson wrote in a March 22 letter to employees. “Though the situation remains fluid, Starbucks stores in China are now on a solid path to recovery.”

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The company said it would pay employees for the next 30 days regardless of whether they decided to work or stay home because of the outbreak. Additionally, Starbucks implemented paid sick leave, mental health benefits and other initiatives to help employees during the crisis.

Coronavirus-related interruptions are likely to have a major negative impact on Starbucks’ earnings. The company disclosed earlier this month that sweeping closures of its stores in China would cause revenue in the region to drop by up to $430 million in the second quarter.

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