Howard Schultz gives some hints about Starbucks’ future

The interim CEO outlined five “bold moves” that will outline the brand’s reinvention, though he provided few details, saying they will come in the next few weeks.
Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz listed several ideas that will guide the company's plan going forward./Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Starbucks’ Interim CEO Howard Schultz on Monday hinted at potentially significant changes as part of a strategy to “reinvent” the coffee giant, declaring that “this is the next chapter of Starbucks” while listing several “bold ideas” that will guide the chain’s future going forward.

But he was scant on the details, simply promising that they will be revealed in the next several weeks.

“Today, we find ourselves in a position where we must modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and recreate an environment that is relevant, welcoming and safe, and where we uplift one another with dignity, respect and kindness,” Schultz said in a letter on Monday. “We need to reinvent Starbucks for the future.”

Schultz was announced as the replacement for Kevin Johnson in March and took over the next month. He is coming at a time that the company itself appears to be doing fine—during the company’s most recent earnings call he said that Starbucks had plenty of “demand” from customers, but that it couldn’t serve them well because of changes in how consumers order.

In the process, he promised to make changes in operations during what is expected to be a limited run in his third go-round as CEO. Starbucks expects to name a permanent replacement by the fall, who will take over the position by early next year. Schultz will then go back to the company’s board.

In his letter, Schultz said that teams “are already hard at work to build this next Starbucks.” The “reinvention,” he said, would feature “five bold moves:”

“Re-envision how we bring our mission to life.”

“Renew the well-being of retail partners by radically improving their experience.”

“Reimagine our store experience for greater connection, ease and a planet-positive impact.”

“Reconnect with our customers by delivering memorable and personalized moments.”

“Redesign partnership by creating new ways to thrive together.”

The “bold moves” suggest the company plans to make major changes in the employee experience. That is coming at a time when a growing number of the chain’s restaurants are approving votes to unionize.

Schultz listed four “principles for a new partnership” that are focused on improving working conditions. That includes focusing more on “safety, welcoming and kindness” in stores, more advancement opportunities for workers, working to make a difference in local communities and “shared power, shared accountability, shared success.”

“We aim to be a wholly new kind of company in our industry, setting a new standard,” Schultz wrote.

Some of the other ideas hint at potentially major changes inside the company’s stores while ensuring customers have the personalization they’ve been increasingly demanding from Starbucks lately.

Exactly what the company is planning remains to be seen. But Schultz said that the specific programs will be unveiled “in the weeks ahead.”

“The additional work required will take shape over time and continue to be created together, across our stores, our roasting plants and the Starbucks support center,” Schultz wrote.

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