Starbucks: Battling the Racism Allegations
On April 12, 2018, the manager of a Philadelphia Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks) store called the police and two customers were arrested. The two men, who were black, were sitting at a table in the store without having placed an order. The incident sparked an online wave of protest over racial bias at Starbucks, a company that had long touted its social agenda of racial equity and diversity. The chief executive officer of Starbucks, quickly acknowledged the incident with a general public apology and a more specific follow-up statement later the same day. Amid outrage over the Philadelphia arrests and backlash online, the company also announced a half-day mass anti-racism training program for its employees. Experts were skeptical about the success of the training, claiming that a half-day training session could not eliminate racial bias. Was the company doing enough to train its front-line employees in providing not only the best service but also equal service to its customers? Did Starbucks truly represent the values it promoted? Would a half-day anti-racism training session effectively address the issue of racial bias, especially for front-line workers? Parul Gupta is affiliated with Management Development Institute. Shikha Bhardwaj is affiliated with Indian Institute of Management.