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Starbucks Scrapes Vaccine Mandate After Supreme Court Ruling

A week after a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling temporarily stopped President Joe Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate — which required companies of over 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly — Starbucks is suspending their COVID-19 vaccine or test requirement, they informed employees in a memo sent Tuesday.

Starbucks, which has over 15,000 locations in the U.S., told their 228,000 workers on Jan. 3 that they would need to either be fully vaccinated by Feb. 9, or accept weekly testing. The employees had to disclose their vaccination status by Jan. 10.

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“This is an important step we can take to help more partners get vaccinated, limit the spread of Covid-19, and create choices that partners can own based on what’s best for them,” Starbucks CEO John Culver said at the time.

While Culver said in the memo they respect and will comply with the ruling, he also expressed the desire to continue believing in the purpose of the mandate, while urging employees to keep getting shots and boosted against the virus.

“I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate. Thank you to the more than 90 percent of partners who have already disclosed their vaccination status, and to the vast majority who are now fully vaccinated.”

The New York Post noted that Starbucks is still requiring employees to wear surgical masks instead of cloth masks. The company — which brought in a 2021 third quarter revenue of $8.15 billion — previously tried to incentivize vaccinations by offering two paid hours off for every dosage received.

General Electric, which has over 170,000 workers, has also suspended their vaccine and testing rules. Like Starbucks, GE encouraged their workers to get vaccinated. Eyes will now turn to see if other major businesses, such Target (409,000 workers) will opt to pull back or suspend their policies in place.

It’s already clear some will not be following the ruling, however. Bankers Citigroup and Goldman Sachs told Forbes they would continue their mandates, while Wells Fargo would continue its testing program as part of its vaccine or test mandate. Meanwhile, Carhartt — which employs over 5,000 — faced both support and backlash for intending to carry on with their vaccination policy.

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Due to the surging omicron variant, the coffee giant has had to reduce employee hours while experiencing supply shortages and sick workers. Other restaurant companies are dealing with the same – McDonald’s cut store hours by 10% on average at 40,000 locations.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), just 36% of U.S. workers are required to be vaccinated by their employer. That number has increased from 5% in May 2021. Meanwhile, 43% of workers say their companies are encouraging vaccinations, down from 66% in May and 55% in August.

Despite the low number of total workers required to be vaccinated, Forbes noted that, somewhat surprisingly, 56% of the 2,200 respondents to a Morning Consult poll said they believe employers should require mandates. Meanwhile, 33% disagreed. Across the U.S., 63% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 75.7% have received at least one vaccine dose and 24.8% have received a booster.

For Starbucks, a vaccine mandate isn’t their only worry. Workers in Buffalo were successful in two out of three union elections, becoming the first unionized Starbucks locations in the U.S. Others in major cities like Seattle, Boston, and Chicago are organizing to follow suit.

Starbucks Holiday Cups

Starbucks Holiday Menu’s Are Back; A Year In The Making

While it may be too early for you to whip out the Christmas lights and yule logs, Starbucks is getting the holiday season started this week with the premiere of their annual holiday cup collection, and signature seasonal beverages. The start of their holiday campaign marks the beginning of a year long effort for the companies biggest annual marketing strategy. The holidays are always a lucrative opportunity for any business, and Starbucks is no different. 

The company begins planning their holiday campaign a year in advance; this includes making and finalizing cup designs, deciding what classic holiday beverages will be returning to the menu and what new additions will make the cut. The collection also normally includes a bunch of Starbucks memorabilia including tumblers, portable coffee cups, mugs, etc. This year, Starbucks has four main cup designs, which include Polka Dots, a “Merry Coffee” dancing design, a “Merry Coffee” striped design, and a candy cane themed cup. This years holiday beverages include the classic peppermint mocha, which has been returning every holiday season for 17 years, a toasted white chocolate mocha, caramel brulee latte, chestnut praline latte and the eggnog latte.

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“It starts very early. We’re already looking at next year now and our creative team, that’s combined with our customer insights team, talks through holiday season, at the close of the season and, actually, while we’re going through the season and it begins to develop what the customer wants to see,” Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer told FOX Business.

As stated, the process begins a year in advance, and typically during the campaigns as they’re happening. This way Starbucks executives can closely monitor what products and menu items are popular and working and which aren’t, in live time. Additionally the company analyzes consumer feedback throughout the entire year and uses focus groups to run through extensive product testing and record genuine reviews of new potential holiday menu items. 

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Other cosmetic changes will include the in store menu’s going from green to red, as well as red aprons for the barista’s. One of their biggest concerns was for distribution of their reusable holiday Red cups that work with the Red foundation. Last year the demand for the cups was so high that they sold out within the first week of promotion. Most likely because part of Starbucks’ annual holiday campaign states that anyone who purchases a red cup can return it to Starbucks locations from Nov. 7 to Jan. 7 to get a 50-cent discount off holiday beverages/refills. 

“It will be quite festive inside the building, and what’s really neat about it is we’ve done so much work this year on in-store execution. We feel really good about having enough available red cups this year in terms of the inventory of the cups and the way our baristas, are able to customize and create these wonderful beverages for our customer base,” said Brewer.

From the business side, Starbucks allot’s separate training for all its baristas during holiday promotions so they become experts in preparing complicated specialty drink recipe’s in a quick and efficient matter. They enforce the same type of training ever autumn for the pumpkin spice latte rush. This training is mainly to prepare in store staff for the points in the day where there’s a rush of foot traffic and multiple customers ordering the same complex holiday beverages. The massive preparation is also to keep up with holiday coffee competitors such as Dunkin Donuts or McDonalds, both of which always announce their holiday menus a day or two before Starbucks in order to seem ahead of the curve. However, with Starbucks now fully branding themselves with their annual holiday promotions, it’ll be hard for competitors to keep up with the red cups that take over every holiday season.