The announcement follows a furore over the arrest of two African-American men at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week. The incident illustrated the bias that can affect even the most normal activities such as meeting someone for coffee in the U.S. public spaces.
"Earlier this week, Starbucks began a review of its training and practices to make important reforms where necessary to ensure our stores always represent our mission and values by providing a safe and inclusive environment for our customers and partners", the company added in the statement. Starbucks said its United States company-owned stores and corporate offices will be closed on the afternoon of 29 May for the training, which will eventually be incorporated into the instruction process for all newly-hired employees.
Moving forward, this curriculum will become part of routine training for all new Starbucks hires, the company says. The incident was recorded by customers, and the videos went viral, with more than eight million views on Twitter, according to the New York Times.
The two men's lawyer Lauren Wimmer told a CBS affiliate in Philadelphia that they had been waiting for a third man to arrive for a business meeting.
"I had the opportunity to apologize to those two gentlemen for what happened to them", he said. Starbucks said Tuesday that the employee who made the call no longer works at the store but declined to give details.
These separate incident have prompted Starbucks to respond by pledging to train their baristas and management staff on racial bias. Nonetheless, the closing of the stores in afternoon willl affect the company's sales on May 29.
The Black Star Project announced plans to boycott the chain and organize demonstrations Wednesday at 10 Chicago locations, including five Loop coffee shops and one store each in the Near North, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park and Buena Park neighborhoods. There are more than 25K Starbucks stores worldwide. It is a high-profile public relations test for Johnson, a former technology executive who took the helm at Starbucks roughly a year ago.