Coronavirus: Starbucks considers drive-thru-only stores, limited seating

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Some Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada may become drive-thru only while others could limit the number of people allowed inside, the company said, one day after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic.

“As a last resort, we will close a store if we feel it is in the best interest of our customers and partners, or if we are directed to do so by government authorities,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to customers.

Johnson emphasized that any closures will be temporary. The company said decisions will be made on a store-by-store basis.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Starbucks halting use of personal, in-store cups in U.S. and Canada

The letter also says some stores could move to only accepting mobile ordering for pickup or delivery through the Starbucks App or Uber Eats.

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The Seattle roaster has approximately 15,000 U.S. stores and 1,600 Canadian stores. Most are owned by the company but some — including locations in retail stores and airports — are run by licensees.

Starbucks has already increased the pace of sanitizing stores and put into place a temporary ban on use of personal cups or in-store mugs and glassware.

READ MORE: Why coffee shops are banning reusable cups amid coronavirus concerns

In a separate letter to employees, the company said it is temporarily expanding catastrophe pay for employees who have been diagnosed with or exposed to the virus. Employees can use up to 14 days of catastrophe pay in addition to paid sick leave, vacation time and personal days.

Employees with symptoms are also being asked to stay home.

National chains like Starbucks Corp. that serve customers face-to-face are bearing the brunt of some of the fallout from the virus. The company’s shares plunged 7 per cent Thursday to a 52-week low. In the past month, since the gravity of the outbreak has hit home in the U.S., shares are down almost 30 per cent.

—With files from Global News

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