Starbucks weathered a tumultuous weekend after a video depicting two black men being arrested and removed from a coffee shop in Philadelphia went viral on social media. The video was followed by a similar incident filmed in Los Angeles, but the coffee chain has responded to calls of discrimination on multiple fronts this week.
Most notably, Starbucks announced Tuesday (April 17) that all company-owned Starbucks units and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of May 29 for more than 175,000 employees to complete racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in company stores. The training will become part of the brand’s onboarding process, too, Starbucks said in a statement.
There are more than 8,000 company-owned Starbucks in the U.S., accounting for about 60 percent of the company’s total store count stateside (the other locations are licensed). In 2016, U.S. system-wide sales notched almost $15 billion.
It’s difficult to calculate exactly how much money Starbucks makes every day, but that figure extrapolates to about $40 million daily. Sixty percent of that figure accounts for about $24 million. Again, it’s hard to guess down to the drip how much money Starbucks will forfeit, but it will be a costly afternoon.
But it’s a bill Starbucks felt had to be paid. CEO Kevin Johnson said he wants Starbucks to be part of the solution to solving racial discrimination and bias in the U.S., not part of the problem.
“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” Johnson said in the statement. “Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities.”
The statement from Starbucks follows Johnson’s conversations with the men arrested about their experience “as well as what is happening in communities across the country,” according to a second statement, published earlier Tuesday.
In the statement, Starbucks said Johnson apologized on behalf of the company and continued the conversation, directing it toward “how this painful incident can become a vehicle for positive social change.”
In the video, recorded by another customer and posted to Twitter last Thursday, two men are shown being arrested and escorted out of a Starbucks by several Philadelphia police officers. The men were allegedly asked to leave the coffee shop while waiting for a friend. The men had asked to use the restroom before making a purchase—a violation of Starbucks policy—then were arrested for refusing to leave upon the owner’s request.
The second video, posted to Twitter on Monday, shows an incident in which a white customer steps out of the bathroom. A black man, with his phone camera in hand, asks whether the white man made a purchase before using the restroom. He had not. Unlike the man recording, the white man had allegedly been allowed to use the bathroom by employees.
Several patrons defended the men in the video and scores more led protests against the coffee shop in Philadelphia over the weekend. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross stood by his officers’ actions, noting they were called to make an arrest and did so lawfully. He added that his department implements implicit bias training for officers and has a commitment to objective policing.
Starbucks, on the other hand, has been quick to admit its mistakes. The company’s official Twitter account called the incident “reprehensible” before Johnson’s appeal on Monday. Capped by the announcement of a nationwide shutdown, it’s clear that Starbucks is handling these accusations with utmost attention and urgency.
The five times weekly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on the latest industry news and additions to this website.