Starbucks Unveils Its Plan for the Future as Unhappy Employees Look To Organize
Improving Worker Conditions
At an investor briefing yesterday, Starbucks (SBUX) laid out plans to overhaul certain aspects of the coffee giant’s strategy. This partially involves the introduction of new technology that aims to prevent individual stores from being overwhelmed during peak business hours.
Known as “load balancing,” the system allows Starbucks to redirect mobile orders to stores that are less busy, rather than piling on an already slammed location. This is especially important as mobile orders become more relevant, and many stores are experiencing clogged drive-thru lanes.
How COVID Changed Starbucks
Starbucks gained market share during the height of the pandemic as digital orders exploded and fueled sales. Online orders now account for nearly 25% of Starbucks total orders. At the same time, that growth has pushed physical stores to their limit — and left many a burned out barista in its wake.
The pandemic also saw customized coffee drinks and cold beverages surge in popularity, which are comparatively harder to make, adding to employee’s stress levels.
Partly in response to these trends, baristas have been organizing and looking to form unions. 236 stores have voted to join a union over the past year, out of Starbucks’ close to 9,000 corporate-owned locations in the US.
The Company’s Gameplan
Starbucks is rolling out a series of initiatives aimed at improving its individual employee’s experience, such as increased training and more sick time. In addition to the “load balancing” technology, customers will soon be able to tip individual baristas directly via credit card.
Other technological improvements are focused on worker’s day-to-day responsibilities, such as a new blender that makes whipping cold foam easier and faster. Starbucks also isn’t shying away from the concept of paying workers more: the company says it will spend $1 billion on additional labor investments this year, including higher wages. That’s especially important given the nation’s ongoing labor shortage, all while staffing is returning to pre-COVID levels at Starbucks’ cafes.
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