Coronavirus leads Starbucks to close US cafes, shift to drive-thru service only

The coffeehouse chain said reduced service plan will be in place for at least 2 weeks

Starbucks informed its employees on Friday that it will shut down its traditional cafes and temporarily limit service to drive-thru and delivery only due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

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The coffeehouse chain said the reduced service policy will remain in place for at least two weeks at company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada. Some exceptions will be made for Starbucks cafes in and around hospitals in order to provide support for medical workers and first responders.

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In addition, Starbucks said it would pay U.S. employees for the next 30 days regardless of whether they decided to stay home because of the outbreak.

“The magnitude of managing through this situation is the single biggest challenge many of us have faced in our lifetime, and I am continually moved by your compassion for each other, our customers and our communities during this exceptionally difficult time,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada, wrote in a letter to employees.

The move to drive-thru and delivery service was an escalation of Starbucks’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. The chain had already temporarily closed in-store seating in favor of a “to-go” service model and reduced hours at stores in areas contending with severe outbreaks.

About 60 percent of Starbucks’ store locations in the impacted regions have drive-thru access. The company operates more than 8,500 U.S. stores.

Earlier this month, a Starbucks employee at a Seattle store location tested positive for coronavirus. Aside from catastrophe pay, Starbucks has detailed paid sick leave, personal time off and mental health benefits for employees impacted by coronavirus.

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SBUXSTARBUCKS CORPORATION75.98+0.85+1.13%

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More than 35,000 people signed a petition on Coworker.org that called on Starbucks to suspend operations at its stores.

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The decision likely marks another coronavirus-related financial setback for Starbucks. The company is also contending with a major interruption to its store operations in China.

While more than 90 percent of Starbucks stores in China have since reopened, company executives disclosed earlier this month that expected second-quarter revenue in the region would drop by as much as $430 million due to the outbreak.

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