Starbucks’ Staffing Woes Continue Despite New Initiatives

July 13, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

A while back, we found that Starbucks—which is pretty much the poster child for mobile operations in the food service market—was having a major problem with its staffing levels. In fact, reports noted, it was getting so bad that people were actually abandoning orders because the wait was just too long. New reports suggest that Starbucks is trying to turn the situation around, but not having the best of luck.

Starbucks began with a new CEO, who launched a survey to figure out, from the line workers, just what was going on. This was likely a flawed strategy to begin with as who was going to admit having problems keeping up to the CEO, but with the survey seemingly anonymous, Starbucks got some answers.

The answers it got was that keeping the pick-up stations stocked with mobile order fodder during the peak hours was proving difficult, as it was already tough to keep up with peak hours as it was. The addition of mobile order-ahead, meanwhile, made a bad situation worse by effectively opening up an entirely new lane while not adding any staff to cover said lane.

That’s when Starbucks launched a new initiative called North Star to improve operational efficiency as a means to boost customer service. That didn’t work quite so well as hoped. While North Star allowed for certain expansions in staff, it doesn’t seem to have allowed for enough expansion, as 75 percent of surveyed workers revealed that North Star’s staffing levels weren’t actually reached. Sixty-two percent of employees pointed to staffing shortages as a direct hit on customer service.

There are a couple of possible responses here; either Starbucks can go on a hiring binge and actually meet the demand, or it can consolidate its mobile order-ahead into specific locations. You can order ahead, but it can only be picked up at a certain location. Then, that location can step up its own hiring. Starbucks has something similar to this; it’s been working more mobile-only locations since March.

Whatever Starbucks does, it needs to do it quickly. A massive hiring would solve the immediate problem while it works toward something else like mobile-only stores. If it doesn’t act fast, though, it’s likely to start losing customers over this, a point it can ill afford to encounter.