Monday 22 April 2024
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Starbucks: Narasimhan debuts as CEO at annual meeting of shareholders

The new ceo, Laxman Narasimhan: "For long-term, sustainable growth, we will look to discover ways to further elevate the brand through coffee and in our stores; building on our leadership position, we will strengthen and further scale digital experiences for our customers; we will evolve to a more global presence for our business and our brand; 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"

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SEATTLE, USA – Starbucks just concluded its 31st Annual Meeting of Shareholders – the first with Laxman Narasimhan at the helm as ceo. Ahead the Meeting of Shareholders, Narasimhan, shared a letter with partners, detailing his commitment to honor the company’s heritage and build a limitless Starbucks together, alongside partners. This letter serves as a preview into the Annual Meeting, which Narasimhan will lead.

Of particular note is the section on areas of strategic focus: 

“For long-term, sustainable growth, we will look to discover ways to further elevate the brand through coffee and in our stores; building on our leadership position, we will strengthen and further scale digital experiences for our customers; we will evolve to a more global presence for our business and our brand; 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.” 

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Narasimhan was joined by Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors chair, and several members of the leadership team in the meeting. 

The record of the event will be available here. Photos and video will be updated on Starbucks Stories throughout the day.  

Top takeaways from Starbucks 2023 Annual Meeting of Shareholders

Together with the Starbucks Board of Directors, leadership team and green apron partners (employees) from around the world, Narasimhan shared what he learned throughout his immersion journey, including what it means to wear the green apron. And, importantly, he also also shared how these immersion observations will shape the future of Starbucks.

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New ceo shares vision for a limitless Starbucks

Narasimhan shared his bold vision for the refounding of Starbucks.

“We have limitless potential, but we need to address what limits us,” said Narasimhan. “Our performance is strong, but our health needs to be stronger. We strive to be a different kind of company, and that is unchanged. But we now operate in a different kind of world.”

Leaders define what limitless means to them

Throughout Narasimhan’s immersion, he worked closely with the leadership team to define the limitless opportunities ahead for Starbucks.

Starbucks leadership emphasized the importance of the company using its scale for good, being open-minded to new ways of doing business, continuing to innovate the partner experience and uplifting communities around the world.

Addressing the problems

Starbucks shared that with the reinvention plan underway comes a continued investment in partner wages and store operations, and leadership will continue to directly engage with retail partners for guidance. Narasimhan shared that to keep closely connected to the culture and customers, as well as the challenges and opportunities within retail stores, he plans to work in stores for a half day each month and expects his leadership team will stay closely connected to the frontline experience as well. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

Starbucks announced over $1 billion in investments in the overall partner experience. That’s shown up with the introduction of new benefits and with increases in pay.

From the beginning, Starbucks has always believed the partner experience is foundational to the success of the company. This past fiscal year alone Starbucks invested more than $1 billion in wages and training, bringing the average hourly pay at Starbucks to nearly $17.50/hour nationally and with a range of $15-23/hour.

Factoring in the value of Starbucks benefits – rated number one by Aon – that number can rise to up to $10 (making it nearly $27.50/hour), if the company partners participate in all of its benefits. In addition, as a part of the reinvention plan, Starbucks recently completed the rollout of credit/debit tipping across all eligible stores, giving customers more ways to show their appreciation to partners.

Partner benefit enhancements mentioned in the last year include the renewal of the Coffee Masters program and the Origin Experience to deepen partners’ connection to coffee.

Human connection remains core to Starbucks

In his letter today, Narasimhan wrote, “Through my immersion, Howard, the leadership team and I have spent a significant amount of time discussing the universal need for human connection – something our company is uniquely positioned to deliver – in a world full of isolation, loneliness and social exclusion. Together, we have acknowledged the opportunity for a refounding of Starbucks – to nurture the limitless possibilities for our partners, our customers, our communities, our farmers, our earth, and our shareholders by prioritizing human connection over every cup of coffee.”

Laxman Narasimhan’s immersive training – from Starbucks barista to ceo

Laxman Narasimhan took the helm of Starbucks as the new chief executive officer on Monday, but before that, he spent almost six months being mentored by Howard Schultz, meeting with hundreds of partners (employees) around the world, earning his barista certification, and diving into the world of coffee. As Starbucks welcomes Narasimhan to his new role as ceo at today’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, we take a look back at the people he has met across the company and around the world.

“It’s been a remarkable experience for me – from our origins, where we buy coffee from over a half a million farmers, through our roasting plans, our distribution centers, and into our stores,” Narasimhan said. “This immersion has been an incredible journey and a gift.”

Narasimhan was welcomed as incoming chief executive officer of Starbucks with a coffee tasting in the place where it all began – at Seattle’s Pike Place market store. Soon after, he met  Starbucks partners at his first open forum on Sept. 8, 2022, three weeks before he officially joined the company Oct. 1. When Schultz, then interim chief executive officer, introduced Narasimhan to partners, he said that “the leader of Starbucks, the future of the company, must be steeped in humility and must have an innate understanding of humanity.”

Schultz said as he got to know Narasimhan, he said he was stuck by his experience and leadership qualities. “I know we’re going to be in great hands and I can promise you he is going to make us a better company.”

Narasimhan worked with Schultz to create a unique immersion to learn about the Starbucks culture and the business.

“This time with Howard in stores, in the roasting plants, with partners, with investors, with customers – it’s an incredible opportunity for me to be learning from one of the best entrepreneurs in the world,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan began immersion as incoming ceo by earning his barista certification with four weeks of in-store training and visits to more than 30 stores around the world – working the drive-thru window, learning the point-of-sale system and perfecting the topping of a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

“I thought it was very important for me to put myself in the shoes of the partners and really understand what they do and how they do it,” Narasimhan said. “There were things I learned through experience in all of this. It taught me a lot.”

Alli Mendoza, a barista in Houston, was one of the partners who trained Narasimhan on the espresso bar. “People ask me what it’s like to train the ceo, like ‘Really, how was it?’” Mendoza said. “He loved interacting with people, he loves laughing and making people laugh. He just wants to learn and be a ceo who’s there for us.”

In his visits to Starbucks stores, Narasimhan sat down with store managers, district managers and regional directors for their input and guidance. He said, “One piece of advice I hope to really live by was actually a question I was asked by a terrific store manager: ‘Did you earn your green apron today?’ It really got me reflective and thinking about how I could end each day in the future with that question, and hope that most days, the answer would be ‘yes.’”

Narasimhan experienced the journey of Starbucks coffee from the first 10 feet to the last, starting from the fields where coffee is grown (such as Hacienda Alsacia above), to roasting plants in the United States and Europe, and Starbucks stores in London, Amsterdam, Japan, and the United States.

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