New Starbucks CEO says he'll work a half-day behind a store counter monthly as he plans to prioritize 'human connection over every cup of coffee'
Laxman Narasimhan addresses shareholders for the first time today at the company's annual meeting.
The 55-year-old coffee-industry outsider sent a memo to staff ahead of the March 23 meeting.
Here's what he had to say about worker wages, corporate culture, and working as a barista.
Over the last six months, Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan has immersed himself with the brand – including training as a barista.
"I've experienced every aspect of the business to learn what it truly means to wear the green apron," he said in a letter sent Thursday morning to staff, ahead of Starbucks' 2023 shareholder meeting.
Narasimhan was named the successor of interim CEO Howard Schultz last year. He took over as CEO of the chain of more than 36,000 stores on Monday.
In his letter, obtained by Insider, he said there's an opportunity "for a refounding of Starbucks" by prioritizing "human connection over every cup of coffee."
Though he didn't mention the ongoing movement to unionize Starbucks stores, Narasimhan repeatedly discussed the "partner" experience. Nearly 300 Starbucks stores nationwide have voted to unionize.
The company's reinvention plan includes a "focus on improving the store, customer, and of course, the partner experience, including long-term hiring and retention, and continuing our investment in partner wages and store operations," he said.
He said that his immersive experience learning about all aspects of the brand isn't over.
"To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month, and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement," he said.
As for the brand's culture, he said, "we must appreciate our history and honor what made Starbucks great; while evolving and modernizing our brand, our business, and our culture to meet the needs of today."
That means focusing on digital innovation and being less wasteful, he said.
"For long-term, sustainable growth, we will look to discover ways to further elevate the brand through coffee and in our stores," he said. "We will strengthen and further scale digital experiences for our customers…. We will work to become less wasteful and move with greater speed; and, critically, we will reinvigorate our culture around what it means to be a partner at Starbucks."
He ended the letter by saying one thing that won't change – how employees greet customers: "How may we serve you today?"
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