A series of changes in several months—from the C-suite to the store level—have redefined Starbucks’ future.
Just before the end of 2021, the first set of company-run stores officially voted to unionize, a first in the coffee chain’s history. Since then, 150-plus units have joined, and more are expected to come. Then came rearrangements of leadership. In March, Starbucks said Kevin Johnson would retire and step down as CEO; in his place came cofounder and former chief executive Howard Schultz. The longtime Starbucks leader plans to stay on until next year as the brand searches for a new CEO in the fall.
In June, the company said Rossann Williams, who led the North America business, was leaving the company after more than 17 years. The chief human resources officer, executive vice president of public affairs, general counsel, and senior vice president of public policy have all reportedly left the team as well.
With talks of a recession and volatile capital market conditions facing the restaurant industry, Starbucks posted a message Monday from Schultz, detailing the coffee brand’s next chapter, and how it will impact employees, including a “reinvention plan” with five bold moves and a set of guidelines to lead future relationships between Starbucks and its employees. QSR published the full letter below:
The state of the world, the conditions of our stores and communities, and the hopes and dreams and lives of each of our partners are top of mind as I write you this morning. Since my return in April, I have been learning so much through open, honest and often vulnerable conversations and collaboration sessions across stores, manufacturing plants and in the Starbucks Support Center.
It’s clear we’re living in a changing world where economic, societal and operational pressures are colliding. We’re seeing unprecedented cultural division and economic trauma—all while navigating a pandemic, and it seems as though every day there is a new crisis to address.
All of this affects our partners. All of this affects Starbucks as company. And all of this deeply affects millions of customers who visit our stores every day. Our stores serve as windows into America and through them we see the magnitude of the hardships and the ways in which people’s needs are changing.
It has long been my deep belief that together we can—and do—play an important part in creating positive change, for partners and our communities. However, like so much of the world right now, the Starbucks business as it is built today is not set up to fully satisfy the evolving behaviors, needs and expectations of our partners or customers. It is not designed for the future we aspire to for ourselves and the communities in which we serve.
Today, we find ourselves in a position where we must modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and recreate an environment that is relevant, welcoming and safe, and where we uplift one another with dignity, respect and kindness. We need to reinvent Starbucks for the future. And to be successful, it will take our collective courage to begin again.
So where do we go from here?
We are now laying the foundation for the next Starbucks—a company even more true to our shared mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
Many teams are already hard at work to build this next Starbucks. We have started gathering over the last weeks to galvanize around significant reinvention efforts designed to improve the experience of partners and customers and tuned to the health of our communities and our business.
Our Reinvention plan begins with five Bold Moves. We will:
Re-envision how we bring our mission to life.
Renew the well-being of retail partners by radically improving their experience.
Reimagine our store experience for greater connection, ease and a planet positive impact.
Reconnect with our customers by delivering memorable and personalized moments.
Redesign partnership by creating new ways to thrive together.
This is the next chapter of Starbucks.
We will unveil specific programs and initiatives to deliver upon this set of Bold Moves in the weeks ahead.
The additional work required will take shape over time and continue be created together—across our stores, our roasting plants and the Starbucks Support Center—between each of us and also with the customers and stakeholders we serve.
Today, I want to share a preview of how we are thinking about the redesigning of partnership at Starbucks—a partnership where we each have voice and agency in bringing forward perspectives and ideas, and shared accountability for our actions and impact.
Our partners’ own stories, experiences and ideas as shared through collaboration sessions, surveys, open forums and direct conversations with their leaders have inspired a set of principles for a new partnership at Starbucks. These are the principles that will guide us forward:
- Safety, welcoming and kindness for our stores. In a world that is increasingly isolating and often divided, we can operate in a way that knits together the fabric of our neighborhoods. We can expect to protect each other, respect and include each other, and work together to create the kind of safe and welcoming environment we need at work.
- Advancement and opportunity for our partners. Starbucks can be a stepping-stone to betterment– the gaining of skills that matter, roles that pay equitably and paths to more growth and opportunity.
- Well-being for one another and our communities. The uncertainties and challenges in our communities are degrading our mental, physical and financial well-being. Starbucks wants to make a deposit back into society—to help each of us heal, recenter; not just cope, but thrive. Starbucks is investing in the mental, physical and financial health of every partner through our practices, policies and benefits.
- Shared power, shared accountability, shared success. We built this company on the power of partner ideas and voice. Our Reinvention must even more deeply unleash power within each of us, more deeply share accountability in building a shared future and benefit all of us when the company succeeds. We aim to be a wholly new kind of company in our industry, setting a new standard.
Each of us has an ability each day to put these principles into practice. And we will use the weeks ahead to provide you with greater clarity around the existing and new resources and programs available to you and your leaders for support.
Partners, we have created a great and enduring company that has overcome many challenges over the last 50 years. This rich history is built with a long line of partners who have dared to make Starbucks a different kind of company. With each era, we each make our contribution.
The work of our Reinvention is ongoing—and all Starbucks partners who believe in our purpose and potential as a company can make a significant contribution in building our path forward.”