Starbucks has announced it is to close thousands of cafés in the United States for an afternoon in May to train staff on preventing racial discrimination on its premises.
The move comes amid tensions following the arrest of two black men at one of its cafés in Philadelphia last week. Protesters have called for a boycott of the company amid accusations that the chain was practising racial profiling.
Some 8,000 company-owned cafés will close on the afternoon of May 29 to train nearly 175,000 staff. Another 6,000 licenced cafés will stay open; the chain says training materials will be available to staff in those premises who are employed by grocery stores or airports.
“While this (problem) is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” said Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson. He has apologised for the “reprehensible” arrests of the two men, who were held as they waited to meet someone in a Philadelphia café.
Filmed by a customer, the scene was shared widely on social media over the following days.
A joint statement by Starbucks and the men’s lawyer said they had “engaged in constructive discussions about this issue as well as what is happening in communities across the country”.
Johnson said he had spent the past few days in Philadelphia with his team, listening and trying to understand errors to put them to rights.
During the training, staff will be offered a programme “designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure that everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” the company said in a news release.