Starbucks to shut over 8,000 US cafes for race training

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Media caption‘Hey Starbucks, is it my skin colour?’, asks Brandon Ward

Coffee chain Starbucks is to close more than 8,000 company-owned branches in the US for an afternoon next month to carry out “racial bias” training.

The aim is to prevent discrimination in Starbucks stores.

The move comes after the firm had to apologise over last week’s arrest of two black men who were waiting for a friend in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

Following the incident, protesters converged on the store and there were calls for a boycott of Starbucks.

Starbucks’ boss said he had been “learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it”.

Chief executive Kevin Johnson said he had spent the last few days in Philadelphia. On Monday he met the two men who were arrested.

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities,” he said.

All Starbucks company-owned branches and corporate offices will be closed in the afternoon of Tuesday 29 May. Nearly 175,000 staff will receive the training, as will all future recruits.

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Media captionStarbucks staff to get ‘unconscious bias’ training

The training will “address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome”, the company said in a statement.

Following the incident in Philadelphia last Thursday, amateur video showed police placing the two men, who were accused by shop staff of trespassing, in handcuffs.

The footage was widely shared after it was posted on Twitter and led to accusations of racial profiling.

Mr Johnson said the video was “hard to watch” and that the actions taken were “wrong”.

In an interview on Monday, Mr Johnson said the Philadelphia branch manager who called police on the two men last week has now left the company.

‘Race Together’

In 2015 a Starbucks public relations campaign to encourage customers to discuss issues of race backfired, when the company’s big roll-out was widely mocked.

Launching the “Race Together” campaign, Starbucks had said it wanted to engage customers in a conversation about race after ongoing protests about police treatment of minority communities and race-related social movements online.

It involved baristas scribbling the words “Race Together” on cups and attempting to “engage customers in conversation through Race Together stickers available in select stores”, Starbucks said.

But instead the hashtag #racetogether was hijacked on social media and the campaign became the subject of widespread criticism.