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Why Starbucks Stores Are Closing Around the Country

Starbucks is the world's largest coffee house with over 20,000 stores

A wave of store closures for the well-known Starbucks coffee business is occurring across the nation as a result of changing consumer habits and economic conditions. Once associated with the omnipresent culture of coffee, these closures are the result of a complicated interplay between a number of issues, including the persistent challenges faced by the worldwide epidemic and changing customer tastes that favor local cafés. Investigating the causes behind the closures reveals that Starbucks, a behemoth of a company that looked unstoppable at first, is navigating the rough seas of transition. This essay delves into the complexities of this phenomena, illuminating the factors that are changing the coffee industry and forcing one of the most iconic companies in the world to reassess its position in our daily brew routine.

Are Starbucks Stores Closing?

Are Starbucks Stores Closing
Source: Instagram

As mentioned above, 400 Starbucks locations have closed over the last two years. While it may seem like a significant number, 400 stores is a fraction of the 34,000+ Starbucks stores worldwide. More than half of that number are located in the US. However, the most recent closures have become newsworthy because two of the company’s Senior Vice Presidents spoke out about them. SVPs Denise Nelson and Debbie Stroud wrote a letter to all Starbucks partners in July of 2022, addressing the many concerns brought to their attention. This letter explains the expected changes in the company to ensure a safe and happy workplace. It also sheds light on why Starbucks stores are closing. Read on as we explore this subject and everything pertaining to it.

Why Did Starbucks Close 16 US Stores? 

Why Did Starbucks Close 16 US Stores
Source: Instagram

According to Starbucks, many of their most recent store closures have been due to “safety concerns.” Sixteen stores across five different states have been shut down within the last few months due to various issues concerning the safety of employees and the surrounding public. Drug use in bathrooms seems to be the most prominent, but the stores have also faced harassment, shoplifting, and even gunfire in some areas. In the three months before a Starbucks store in Kansas City was closed, seven different calls were placed to the police department. Crime rates have increased in other cities where stores have closed, such as Seattle and Los Angles. West Hollywood has seen almost double the crime in 2022 as it did the previous year, proving that Starbucks’ safety concerns are valid. However, because many of these closures come shortly after Starbucks employees have started unionizing, many people doubt the coffee giant’s true motives regarding which stores get chosen for closure. In late 2021, a Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY, was the first to vote to become unionized. Since then, over 200 stores have joined or are scheduled to join the union. Starbucks has never hidden the fact that it is vehemently opposed to unions. In fact, current interim CEO Howard Shultz has historical been anti-union, calling it a threat. Many people think Starbucks seems to be retaliating against the union by firing employees, withholding benefits, and shutting down unionized stores. There are currently hundreds of legal accusations against Starbucks under review, and protests have occurred in many stores. However, Starbucks denies retaliation regarding their unionized stores, stating that any terminated employees were fired for store policy violations, such as tardiness, dress code, etc.

See also  10 Best Starbucks Holiday Drinks to Order This Season

Why the Union? 

Starbucks started shutting down
Source: Instagram

While Starbucks has opened almost as many new stores as it has closed recently, employees are still struggling. Starbucks started shutting down stores in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, the remaining stores were left with overworked employees struggling to meet the demands of the area’s customers. Rising prices and an ever-growing demand for fast service have left employees overworked, burnt out, and often struggling with mental health. Customers are not always kind, and management is not always understanding. Add to this the safety issues some Starbucks locations have faced, and you have the perfect storm. After all, nobody should have to clean up bodily fluids or witness an overdose, let alone someone getting paid minimum wage. In a big corporation, the little guy often gets overlooked. By unionizing, many suffering employees may feel like they are finally getting a voice. Livable wages and decent benefits are the bare minimum to expect from your employer, yet Starbucks is fighting tooth and nail to avoid providing this to their employees. 

How Many Starbucks Stores Will Close?

Many Starbucks Stores Will Close
Source: Instagram

A 20-billion-dollar company like Starbucks is not going anywhere anytime soon. While their bottom line may have dropped a bit during COVID, like many businesses, they are far from going broke. We may see some policy changes in the near future, such as no public restrooms, but Starbucks is here to stay for a very long time. Personally, I think we may see more urban neighborhoods lose their local Starbucks if the safety concerns are legitimate. While drug use, gang violence, and other crimes run rampant, certain areas are not fun places to work. In their letter, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelsen said it well, “We cannot serve as partners if we do not first feel safe at work.” Starbucks’ goal has always been to be the “third place,” a place between work and home where people can come together as a community. It’s challenging to do that when someone is unconscious in the bathroom or gunfire is ringing down the streets. So no one can fault Starbucks for making safe choices for their employees regarding store locations.


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  1. Regarding unionization and Starbucks relatively generous compensation for employees with a high school education or GED. More uninformed mindless comments from people who have never actually done anything- developed a business, created employment and contributed to the community. Go start your own coffee house before telling someone else how to run theirs.

  2. This is simply poor hiring choices to run Businesses. Managers to run the business with an employees mid set. They can’t hire people is the excuse. Operating on their own hours because they can’t get people to work. But management that sits at home and tells employees they have to stay. It seems like the leaders in today’s restaurant and retail industries are promoting their leaders by default. No one above the employee level wants to work at anything. Let alone this useless future of leaders we are developing daily. McDonalds can survive “unsafe” environments. But starbucks cant??can’t??? That’s the answer. It’s too unsafe. So, we will close the doors, not reopen to a safer location, and out you out of a job. Good luck to you. Pathetic is what it is. Baby thin skin now days. Ridiculous.

  3. “Customers are not always kind, and management is not always understanding.” The world will not change. Do not wait for the world to change. You will waist your life that way. And if it does try and change to accommodate you, it’s not a world you will want to live in. It will begin to restrict you beyond your needs. As Vivian Greene said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

  4. Corporate staff deserve 99% of the blame. Totally disconnected and apathetic towards staff and customers. They aren’t worth the hassle.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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