Starbucks temporarily closes 8000 stores for anti-bias training after incident in Philadelphia
Thousands of Starbucks locations nationwide, including dozens of cafes in the Triangle, will close for for hours this afternoon for company-mandated racial bias training.
More than 8,000 Starbucks locations will close around 2 p.m., a company spokesperson said, and most will not open back up until Wednesday.
Only company-owned stores are required to participate in the training. The 7,000 licensed shops in grocery stores and airports will likely remain open, the company said, though training materials have been made available to them.
Starbucks announced the move in mid-April in the midst of national outrage over the arrest of two black men waiting to meet a friend in one of the company's Philadelphia coffee shops. The men had not yet ordered and a store manager called the police to have them removed from the store.
"The situation was reprehensible and does not represent our company’s mission and enduring values," Starbucks founder Howard Schultz said of the incident.
Last week, Starbucks released a preview of the curriculum it intends to use in Tuesday's training, focusing largely on understanding the history and manifestations of bias.
For the training, Starbucks produced a video featuring rapper Common, founder Kurtz, current CEO Kevin Johnson and a discussion on bias, including Starbucks board member Mellody Hobson as well as researchers from the Perception Institute and a store manager.
In the fallout last month, Starbucks became the latest corporate face in a series of racially charged incidents, including a man asked to leave a gym in New Jersey and more recently at the Duke University location of locally owned Joe Van Gogh, when two baristas were fired after a university administrator complained about hearing rap music in the coffee shop.
At the White House Correspondent's Dinner, comedienne Michelle Wolf worked Starbucks in as a punchline and questioned what a few hours of training might accomplish.
"You guys are going through Cabinet members quicker than Starbucks throws out black people," Wolf said, referencing frequent turnover in the White House. "No, don’t worry they’re having an afternoon, that’ll solve it. We just needed an afternoon."
The company said that 100 million people visit Starbucks each week and acknowledged that racial bias within its stores likely wouldn't be solved in a single afternoon, but said more would come.
"Starbucks is a company built on nurturing the human spirit, and it’s on us to harness our scale and expertise to do right by the communities we serve," said Starbucks VP Rossann Williams. "May 29 isn’t a solution, it's a first step. By educating ourselves on understanding bias and how it affects our lives and the lives of the people we encounter and serve, we renew our commitment to making the third place welcoming and safe for everyone.”