- Starbucks will require its employees in its U.S. stores, offices and manufacturing plants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 9 or receive weekly COVID-19 testing, Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in a letter to workers on Dec. 27. The information was also shared in a weekly update sent Monday, according to an email shared with Restaurant Dive.
- Employees must disclose their vaccination status to the company by Jan. 10. If they choose to undergo testing in lieu of vaccination, they will be responsible for testing via a pharmacist or doctor, covering any costs and submitting their results.
- Starbucks' new policy comes ahead of the Biden administration's federal vaccine mandate deadline on Feb. 9. Previously, the company had strongly encouraged its workers to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
Starbucks' vaccination plan for employees comes as the coffee chain's workers experience higher rates of COVID-19 exposure, infections and quarantines, the company said in a message to employees last week.
"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," Culver wrote in his letter. "If vaccination rates rise and community spread slows, we will adapt accordingly. But if things get worse, we may have to consider additional measures."
Culver noted the different opinions on mandates that make these policies controversial. "I recognize that partners have a wide spectrum of views on vaccinations, much like the rest of the country," he wrote, but the company in a separate communication emphasized it believed "getting our communities vaccinated is the safest and most effective method to prevent the spread of COVID-19." The coffee chain also emphasized its policies were developed to comply with federal OSHA standards.
Culver wrote that Starbucks considered several courses of action before settling on its current COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirement, and trialed COVID-19 testing in one market. Going forward, Starbucks will host sessions with workers to discuss the vaccination policy's requirements.
Starbucks is also shortening quarantine periods for employees who have contracted COVID-19 from 10 day to 5 days in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidance for isolation periods.
It's possible more restaurant heavyweights will roll out similar corporate policies to comply with the Biden administration's vaccine mandate, especially as a growing number of cities enact vaccine requirements for indoor dining. As the omicron variant proliferates, Boston and Washington, D.C. will implement such vaccine mandates on Jan. 15, for example, while Chicago and Philadelphia rolled out vaccine rules on Jan. 3.
Many restaurateurs are unhappy with the federal vaccine mandate — an October Black Box Intelligence survey found 61% of operators across QSR, fast casual, family, casual, upscale and fine dining segments don't agree with the rule. Sixteen percent of these operators fear sales and traffic will take a hit as a result of these mandates.
Other operators worry mandatory vaccinations could hurt recruitment efforts amid an already challenging restaurant labor shortage. Starbucks said in a message to employees it is raising employee referral bonuses from $50 to $200 through April 3.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include comment from Starbucks.