By Dylan Klim
Starbucks recently announced it will be closing more than 8,000 stores for an entire day, May 29, to provide nearly 200,000 employees mandatory training regarding racial bias.
The training was established in light of recent events at a franchise in Philadelphia when two African American men walked into their local Starbucks, asking to use the restroom. The head manager told the men that their bathroom was for paying customers only, instructing them to leave. When the two men refused to order anything, the manager called the police and had the men arrested for trespassing.
“I feel it is great that Starbucks is closing its stores for at least one day, as it is a way for employees to learn from their mistakes,” said Natalie Beck, sophomore. “I feel this is the only way for Starbucks to create a safe and welcoming environment for everybody.”
Similar to the Philadelphia mishap, another Starbucks location in southern California went viral in a similar situation. In the California incident, an African American customer was prohibited from using the restrooms, while a Caucasian male was allowed to do so moments later without purchasing anything.
To conduct the training, it will cost Starbucks $12 million in lost revenue to close down for the day. By voluntarily giving up a day’s worth of sales, the brand could be forfeiting as much as 20 percent of its annual sales.
This is not the first time Starbucks has significantly closed stores. In 2008, Starbucks closed 7,000 stores for the same reason, costing then-CEO Howard Schultz a whopping $6 million.
Starbucks’ current CEO Kevin Johnson has met with the two men in Philadelphia and has offered his apologies. With that, Johnson has also personally fired the head manager at the Pennsylvania store.
“It’s been an emotional experience,” Johnson told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Sitting across from these young men and really trying to figure out how all of this could happen in today’s society – in a Starbucks – is a learning experience. Our mission is around the human experience and creating a welcoming environment for everyone. I’m going to fix it.”
Starbucks closing their stores for a single day just might be the step in the right direction the brand needs. Perhaps other companies will follow suit in this approach to lessening discrimination in the restaurant business.