Coronavirus prompts Starbucks to mull limiting orders to drive-thru, mobile only

At least one Starbucks employee in Seattle has tested positive for coronavirus to date

Starbucks will consider enacting precautionary store policies in some areas to protect employees and customers from the worsening coronavirus outbreak, CEO Kevin Johnson said on Thursday.

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The coffeehouse chain could move to limit seating for social distancing purposes or restrict purchases to mobile orders for pickup and delivery or drive-thru as necessary. While U.S. and Canadian stores maintain normal operations at present, Johnson said that decisions on store policies would be made on a “community-by-community and store-by-store” basis as the outbreak unfolds.

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“As a last resort, we will close a store if we feel it is in the best interest of our customers and partners, or if we are directed to do so by government authorities,” Johnson said in a letter to customers. “In any such situation, we expect store disruption to be temporary.”

At least one Starbucks employee in Seattle has tested positive for coronavirus to date. The diagnosis prompted Starbucks to temporarily shutter the impacted store for a deep cleaning.

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U.S. authorities have confirmed more than 1,300 individual cases of coronavirus to date and at least 38 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. Seattle, which houses Starbucks’ global headquarters, has dealt with a particularly severe outbreak.

In a separate announcement, Starbucks detailed benefits for employees affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Aside from paid sick leave and personal time off, Starbucks said it would offer “catastrophe pay” to employees diagnosed or directly impacted by coronavirus.

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The catastrophe pay benefit lasts for 14 days, though Starbucks employees unable to return to work will be eligible for replacement pay for up to 26 weeks. The chain is also offering mental health benefits.

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“You have our full support when it comes to partner care, including access to catastrophe pay, benefits that support your physical and mental health, as well as a network of partners who are all here to help,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president and president of company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Johnson said Starbucks used its experience dealing with coronavirus’s impact on its stores in China to inform decisions for U.S. operations. While more than 90 percent of Starbucks’ China stores are back in operation, the company warned 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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