Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) announced on Tuesday that it will close 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. for one afternoon to educate nearly 175,000 employees about racial bias.
The training session will be held May 29.
The sweeping suspension of commercial activity at U.S. locations comes in the wake of an uproar last week over the arrest of two black men who were waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks location.
The men were denied use of a restroom because they didn't order food or drinks. The store manager then called police when they refused to leave, explaining they were waiting for a friend. Video documented that the white friend arrived even as police led the pair away in handcuffs. They were later released when Starbucks didn't press charges.
In the video, they are neatly groomed, wearing casual clothes and not causing a ruckus.
MarketWatch has calculated that Starbucks locations could lose about 20% of their daily revenue, or US$12mln.
The Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said his “heart sank” when he saw the video of the two black men being arrested. He apologized for the incident and called it “an emotional learning experience” in an interview that aired on CNN.
The manager who called the police no longer works for the chain.
"I've spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement.
"While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to being a part of the solution," he said. "Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities."