Starbucks warned customers on Friday of store closures and supply chain disruptions in the coming weeks as surging coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant continue to create unprecedented challenges for restaurant chains.
The Seattle-based coffee giant said it would delay the expiration of “Stars,” the points given to its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program members, through April 1, “to thank you for your continued loyalty, and for the patience you’ve shown our store partners during these trying times.”
The warning, sent to customers early Friday afternoon, comes as customers continue complaining about closed stores, as are some workers, or the unavailability of certain products on social media channels.
The letter from Starbucks suggests the coffee giant is expecting the problem to persist for a while, at least. “With the rapid spread of the omicron variant, we’ve all been forced to adapt again,” the company wrote. “Your Starbucks Experience may look different each time as we navigate this dynamic situation in each of our communities.
“You may notice some stores will have shortened hours, that some products may be unavailable, or that mobile order and pay is temporarily turned off at your store.”
It is the latest signal of an unprecedented challenge facing the nation’s restaurant operators.
Restaurant chains have struggled to find enough workers in recent months amid a historic labor shortage, driven by people staying out of the labor force as the coronavirus continues to rage, and a sharp demand for food.
Supply chain challenges have also emerged, as suppliers face many of the same problems. Starbucks in particular has weathered periodic shortages of various ingredients for months.
The omicron variant, however, appears to be putting many of these problems into overdrive as workers call in sick. Nearly 900,000 cases were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, according to the New York Times. The seven-day average was 800,000—meaning some 5.6 million people were confirmed to have coronavirus.
Given the likelihood that many more people have the virus and were not confirmed, it has led to massive numbers of people calling in sick. In the restaurant industry, where people can’t exactly work from home, it has led to unexpected closures and shortened hours.
A Jimmy John’s location in suburban Minneapolis on Thursday was completely closed by late afternoon because of a lack of workers. It had already been relegated to drive-thru-only as a result of worker shortages. Near the store, at the corner of a strip mall, is a sign advertising for workers.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.