One Year After Arrest Controversy, Starbucks Exec. Says Diversity Efforts are Succeeding

March 21, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Nearly a year after more than 8,000 Starbucks closed for an afternoon so employees could participate in a racial bias workshop, the company says facilitating diversity remains fundamental to its success.

Diversity “has absolutely been critical,” Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks’ chief operations officer, told Cheddar from a company shareholder meeting in Seattle on Wednesday.

The coffee giant came under fire last year after a store manager in Philadelphia called the police on two young African-American men who were waiting at a table for a business meeting to begin. A video of the men being arrested and escorted out of the store in handcuffs went viral, sparking nationwide outrage.

“This is not who we are,” Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson said after the incident.

Brewer said after the racial bias training ー which was mandated company wide after the Philadelphia incident ー the company has seen results, including improved customer feedback.

The company has since made its training program available to other companies and the public in an effort to spread its ethos.

Despite the incident in Philadelphia, Starbucks has largely been praised for its diverse leadership and inclusion programs.

“We think about who our customers are,” Brewer said. “Our customers come from all different walks of life, all different races and genders, and it is important for us to reflect that.”

Recognizing the success of trainings and employee investments, Starbucks plans to continue its company-wide workshops. In October, nearly 10,000 store managers will gather for a leadership training, which will be the first managerial meeting on that scale in over a decade, according to Brewer.

The company also plans to continue bringing young people from diverse backgrounds into the “Starbucks family.” The company is especially focusing on what it calls “opportunity stores,” which hire people between the ages of 18 and 24 for what is often their first full-time job.

“We are teaching them a lot of discipline. The discipline of just coming to work everyday and creating a schedule,” Brewer said. “But then they get to think about going to college. And some of these individuals have never thought about that.”

Moreover, Starbucks expanded its gender and racial equality programs to its stores in Canada and China.

“We are not just stopping here in the U.S.,” Brewer said.

For full interview click here.