Starbucks Considers Drive-Thru, Mobile Orders Only

The CEO indicated some locations might curtail customer interaction. 

March 13, 2020

SEATTLE—Starbucks might limit seating or restrict orders to mobile or drive-thru lanes because of the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reports. CEO Kevin Johnson said that some locations may employ those measures to keep both customers and employees safe from exposure to COVID-19.

“This means that as we navigate this dynamic situation community-by-community and store-by-store, we may adapt the store experience by limiting seating to improve social distancing, enable mobile order-only scenarios for pickup via the Starbucks app or delivery via Uber Eats, or in some cases only the drive thru will be open,” Johnson wrote in a letter to customers last week.

U.S. and Canadian locations have begun preparations for modifying operations if necessary, including potentially closing a store, which Johnson said would happen only under extreme circumstances. Starbucks did close a Seattle location early in March after a barista contracted the virus but reopened the store four days later. The chain also announced this week that it would give workers exposed to coronavirus up to 14 days of “catastrophe pay” to help stem the spread of the virus.

Starbucks used these types of measures in China, where it has reopened 90% of its stores after shutting down more than 50% of them because of COVID-19.