In the 50 years since its opening, Starbucks has become one of the most successful coffee companies in the world.
With over 87,000 different drink and flavor combinations and many popular drinks, nobody can beat what this caffeine giant has to offer. Yet, over the last two years, they have shut down over 400 locations. The question is, why?
Are Starbucks Stores Closing?
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?
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.
Why the Union?
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?
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.
Big corporations must learn to take care of their workforce, for without them, there would be no company. After all, nobody expects Howard Shultz to make his way to the local Starbucks and make their favorite latte.
While the number of Starbucks locations closed may continue to rise, so will the number of new stores. Many of these new locations will likely be inside supermarkets, malls, and other public areas less prone to criminal activity.
Despite these many closings, you can rest assured that Starbucks will continue opening new locations worldwide. With any luck, the parent company can make amends with the Starbucks Union and begin to treat their employees with the respect they deserve.