Starbucks plans to expand its ‘Community Store’ concept to 1,000 locations

The coffee giant also said it is testing more inclusive design options as it works to improve accessibility to people with disabilities.
Starbucks community store
Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks said on Monday that it plans to greatly expand its more inclusive “Community Store” concept to 1,000 locations by 2030 while it also works to improve its overall accessibility to people with disabilities.

The Seattle-based coffee giant has 150 of the Community Store locations, which are designed to give employees the ability to connect with local communities through a specific initiative or cause.

The locations are a take on the coffee giant’s “Third Place” idea, or a gathering place outside of work or home. They are led by workers and provide dedicated programming and experiences to improve economic opportunities in their communities while providing employees with more opportunities.

Around the world, Starbucks Community Stores serve under-resourced communities and military communities and work with farmers, youth and women. They also partner with local nonprofit organizations.

In the U.S., the locations focus on economic opportunity in rural and urban communities through hiring, dedicated space for events and work with local artists and diverse contractors. They also support military veterans and service members.

“We know that the more we design for inclusion, to be welcoming and to strengthen our communities, the better our business will be and the better the Starbucks experience will be for our partners and customers,” Katie Young, senior vice president of global growth and development with Starbucks, said in a statement.

Starbucks said it will use the American Human Development Index (HDI) to identify where its Community Stores could provide the most value in the U.S. The company will create custom programming focused on inequities in education, food security, health and economic security.

The stores can serve as “incubators” on how the company can scale locally relevant programming in all 9,000 of the chain’s company-operated locations. The HDI is a widely used index of well-being around the world.

The company said it would design and test more inclusive design standards and experiences across its portfolio, starting in the U.S., to make its stores more accessible to people with disabilities. Starbucks said it would provide more tools to help customers navigate its stores, including communications tools to help people communicate visually and audibly. The company is testing speech-to-text technology that provides a visual display of speech for its employees and customers to reference when they pick up an order.

It is also testing readiness notifications through a customer order status board that provides an update and confirms when an order is ready.

The efforts build upon its accessible design improvements made over the past year. In 2021, the company began offering a free Aira service that connects people with vision problems to trained interpreters who can provide access to information on the customer’s surroundings through a smartphone app. The company also provides multiple formats for its menu, including large-print and Braille menus in all its U.S. and Canadian stores.

The company also has 11 Signing Stores for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. “This inclusive design methodology helps level the playing field by recognizing that disability is part of the human condition and is a natural part of anyone’s identity,” Jill Houghton, CEO of Disability:IN, which works with businesses to improve accessibility, said in a statement. “We know that by designing a better experience for people with disabilities, you are designing a better experience for all.”

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