Starbucks Corp. is doubling down on its commitment to hire veterans, vowing on Wednesday to hire 25,000 military veterans and their spouses by 2025.
The goal, an expansion of a plan set in motion three years ago to hire 10,000 veterans by 2018 — a goal it has already reached. Overall, Starbucks wants to hire 240,000 people globally, including 68,000 in the U.S., by 2021, as part of the company’s expansion plans.
The military hiring plans come amid protests from conservative groups over the company’s hiring plans.
Those protests, including threats of a boycott, have come since January, when the Seattle-based coffee giant pledged to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide.
“They are extraordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder and CEO, said at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday. “They have skills, leadership, integrity, and not an ounce of entitlement. Every one of them who have worn the green apron on their own merit have done a great job. They have made us a better company.”
In addition to veterans, Starbucks is said it has also reached its goal of hiring 10,000 “Opportunity Youth” by 2018, and that it plans to hire 100,000 of these youth by 2020. Opportunity youth are young people, often African American or Latino, who are not in school or are unemployed.
And the company said it plans to work with several groups to continue hiring 10,000 refugees globally. The company is working with the United Nation’s Refugee Agency to scale up its hiring of refugees.
Earlier this week, the conservative, free-market think tank National Center for Public Policy Research raised concerns about what it says is Starbucks’ “liberal political stances and attacks on President Donald Trump.” The think tank vowed to question Schultz about this agenda at the meeting.
“Coffee has no political allegiance, but Starbucks under Schultz’s leadership has been unwavering in its support of liberal causes to the detriment of its brand and shareholder value,” National Center General Counsel Justin Danhof said in a statement earlier this week.
There have been some concerns that Starbucks’ political stance is taking a toll on the company’s sales. The YouGov Brand Index said the chain’s “Buzz score” fell by two-thirds since the Jan. 29 announcement. Meanwhile, the data firm Sense360 said that visits to Starbucks fell by 9.3 percent in February when compared with the period before Christmas.
“There is zero, absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there is any dilution of the Starbucks brand, reputation or core business as a result of being compassionate,” Schultz said in response to a question from Danhof.
Schultz noted that someone who invested $1,000 in 1992, at Starbucks initial-public offering, would have $180,000 today.
The company said it doesn’t plan to slow down. Starbucks announced plans to open 12,000 new locations globally by 2021. That includes another 3,400 in the U.S., including 100 Military Family Stores to support military families in the U.S.
The new stores would increase Starbucks’ unit count by 50 percent. The chain has 26,000 locations globally.
The annual meeting was Schultz’s last as the company’s CEO. Schultz is moving into an executive chairman role in April
His replacement, Kevin Johnson, highlighted Starbucks’ plans to boost sales inside the company’s stores.
“I know I have venti shoes to fill,” Johnson joked, referring to what Starbucks calls its largest size beverages.
The company said it plans to start testing a new line of lunch items, salads and sandwiches, called Starbucks Mercato. The items will be made fresh daily, with the night’s leftovers going to local food banks. Johnson said the company plans to test the products at more than 100 locations in Chicago in mid-April, with plans to expand into other markets.
Those plans follow the chain’s launch of Sous Vide Egg Bites. “I can tell you they are a hit, when you can find them,” Johnson said. “We’re adding capacity to not only catch up, but keep up, with consumer demand.” He also announced plans to create more gluten-free choices, such as a gluten-free Smoked Canadian Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.
Johnson said Starbucks has already deployed measures to improve the customer experience and reduce congestion inside its stores. For instance, the company has dedicated staff at busy stores to handle mobile orders.
Meanwhile, the chain said it plans to integrate its mobile order and pay platform with Amazon’s Alexa and Ford vehicles later this year. It is expanding its My Starbucks barista program, which enables voice command on the mobile app.
This April, the company plans to enable people to give one another Starbucks gift cards over Apple’s iMessage app. It also enables people to give one another gift cards through Microsoft Outlook.
Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
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