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Starbucks Considering Mobile or Drive-Through Only, Store Closures

By Jennifer Saibil - Mar 12, 2020 at 9:35AM

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infiltrate U.S. communities, the beverage giant may make drastic changes.

Starbucks (SBUX 3.87%) CEO Kevin Johnson told customers in a letter that the company is prepared to make serious modifications to stores as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread into the U.S. These modifications include creating greater distances between seats in the stores so customers are not too close to one another, turning stores into drive-through-only stations, and expanding mobile order-and-pay capabilities.

A different Starbucks experience

Johnson said the company will implement measures based on a community-by-community and store-by-store basis. In the extreme scenario, Starbucks says it will close stores if it sees it as necessary or if ordered to by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

"We appreciate your understanding that, as a customer, your Starbucks Experience may look different as we navigate through this time together," he said in his letter.

Starbucks cafe in China.

Image source: Starbucks.

Been there, done that

Starbucks has some experience in this area, having already closed many of its China stores in January. As of now, 90% of those stores have reopened and there are signs of recovery in the area. Johnson also indicated that any adjustments or closures in U.S. Starbucks stores would be temporary.

Too late to regulate?

Although the store closures in China only lasted a few weeks and U.S. stores haven't even seen any changes yet, Starbucks stock has plunged along with the market over the past few days, losing 25% of its value since the start of 2020. Restaurant stocks have been hit hard in the plummeting market since customers are choosing to stay away from social spots.

Starbucks has already instituted a number of changes within the company, including business travel suspensions until the end of March and catastrophe pay for workers affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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