Starbucks to Close Stores for Anti-Bias Training

Devin Lawrence
May 29, 2018

Starbucks will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide Tuesday to conduct anti-bias training, the next of many steps the company is taking to try to restore its tarnished image as a hangout where all are welcome. The Seattle-based chain will shutter its company-owned locations and corporate offices within the United States to train its almost 175,000 employees. Participating stores will close around 2 3 p.m. local time.

Starbucks' training could have a lasting impact on its employees' behavior and pave the way for other companies to finally tackle racism in their own eateries and shops, said Heather McGhee, president of public policy group Demos.

The company's chief executive, Kevin Johnson, flew to Philadelphia to meet with Nelson and Robinson, who later reached a settlement with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum.

Calvin Lai, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, also says anti-bias training can sometimes backfire. The move comes after backlash over the way two black men were recently treated in a Philadelphia store.

Analysts say Starbucks can ill afford the bad publicity at a time of growing competition in a coffee industry which has seen a number of rivals bought out or merged.

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Which Starbucks locations are closed for bias training?

"Our hope is that these learning sessions and discussions will make a difference within and beyond our stores", said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president for US retail, in a news release.

The training program will address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome. Management called the police because the two men, who were meeting up with a friend, stayed in the store without making a purchase. The coffee chain is asking customers to behave in a way that "maintains a warm and welcoming environment". "Starbucks' employees will continue to operate in an environment that reinforces racial disparities", they wrote. If customers are disruptive, employees are advised to step in. The guidelines encourage workers to ask if they would take the considered action with any customer, to verify the perceived situation with a co-worker and to dial 911 if the situation becomes unsafe.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether Tuesday's training will offer more advice or training to employees on how to maintain the new policy.

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