The new CEO of Starbucks is going to try his hand at being a barista. Laxman Narasimhan said in a letter to employees he plans to work at Starbucks stores every month – a divergence from the typical schedule of an executive.
Narasimhan, who was previously an executive at PepsiCo, said before becoming CEO of Starbucks, he trained at the company for six months. Part of that “immersive experience” was learning how to be a barista.
March 20 was his first day leading the company, but he promised to be back in a green apron soon – and frequently.
“I have learned so much about the retail experience from working in our stores,” he wrote in the letter. “To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month, and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement,” he continued.
Narasimhan didn’t just serve coffee during his training, he also learned about the company’s support centers, supply chain and manufacturing. He also met the farmers behind the coffee.
And he spent time with the company’s former CEO Howard Schultz and other executives “discussing the universal need for human connection,” saying Starbucks will prioritize human connection to help its “partners, our customers, our communities, our farmers, our earth, and our shareholders.”
He called it a “refounding of Starbucks” and said the company will work to improve many aspects of the business including long-term hiring and retention of employees and investing in their wages and stores.
Workers at hundreds of Starbucks locations across the U.S. have complained about wages, tried to unionize – which Starbucks has said it opposes – and even staged walkouts last year.
This week, hundreds of workers went on strike again, alleging the company has been issued more than 70 official complaints from the National Labor Relations Board, according to CBS Minnesota, which reports workers at three Starbucks locations in the Twin Cities planned to strike. But the company has also accused the union of refusing to bargain in good faith, filing 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges against it.
In an earlier letter to employees – which the company refers to as “partners” – on Monday, Narasimhan praised Schultz for believing the company must work to “exceed partner expectations.” He told partners “the best days are ahead.”
Individual stores are bargaining with Starbucks on contracts as they unionize, a Starbucks spokesperson told CBS News. The company has sat in “more than 85 single-store contract bargaining sessions and has nearly 30 outstanding proposals for additional single-store bargaining sessions through the end of March 2023” and blamed Workers United, the group organizing the unionization efforts, for not naming bargaining representatives for more than 50 stores and canceling bargaining sessions.
The spokesperson said Starbucks and Workers United had a “productive in-person bargaining session” on Wednesday, discussing the contracts for a store in Seattle, and they hope to continue these in-person discussions for others.
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