Citing the escalating coronavirus crisis and overwhelming carryout traffic, Starbucks said late Friday that it will only accept drive-thru and delivery orders at company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks.
The Seattle-based chain switched to a to-go model on Sunday, but continued to accept orders placed at the register.
But, in an open letter to employees, Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president of U.S. company-operated operations, said cafes have been "experiencing high traffic, and we need to do more to prevent the spread of this virus."
"This is a crisis that is moving quickly, and we need to stay ahead of it and do our part, recognizing this is often confusing, frustrating and dynamic. Today, we are making the decision to close access to our cafés altogether," she said.
The chain said some cafes situated near hospitals and healthcare centers will remain open as it is "especially important to serve thousands of frontline responders and health care workers," Williams said.
Roughly 60% of the chain's more than 6,300 U.S. cafes have drive-thru lanes. A majority of those cafes will remain open, the company said. In the U.S., Starbucks offers delivery in 49 markets. As for mobile orders, Starbucks said customers can still order through the Starbucks app and pick up their orders at locations with a drive-thru.
As for licensed cafes (like those inside supermarkets), Starbucks said: "Our licensed partners will make decisions for their properties."
Williams said Starbucks will pay U.S. partners for the next 30 days even if they choose to stay home. The company has also expanded its catastrophe pay for employees.
“The magnitude of managing through this situation is the single biggest challenge many of us have faced in our lifetime, and I am continually moved by your compassion for each other, our customers and our communities during this exceptionally difficult time," she said. "With daily news from friends and family members getting laid off and businesses closing, we need one another more than ever. We need to be a different kind of company.
“Together, we have successfully navigated many challenges throughout our history, and managing COVID-19 will be no different. You have my word, we will continue to stay true to our mission and values, making the right decisions even when it’s hard, and caring for you and our customers.”
Since Sunday, thousands of restaurants across the U.S. have shut down dine-in operations as government officials urge consumers to use delivery, carryout and drive-thrus. But each day, the crisis grew more severe, prompting several states and cities to order residents to stay at home to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.
On Friday, McDonald's said it was forced to close 50 of its nearly 14,000 U.S. stores because of the pandemic.
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3/21 Updated: This story was edited to include more details about delivery and drive-thru locations.