After undergoing 40 hours of barista training and donning the green apron, Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan has decided to work at a Starbucks cafe once a month. In a world where CEOs are known for their high salary and lavish bonuses, this surprises some. This decision has sparked discussions about the role of CEOs and the coffee shop giant. The move demonstrates Narasimhan’s leadership by example and helps preserve the human element of the coffee shop experience.
This isn’t a one-time thing, either. In March 23rd letter he wrote to Starbucks employees, he reinforced his reasoning for working shifts at the company’s cafes. It’s all about employee and customer relations. “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.”
This move comes at a time when tension between Starbucks and its employees is on the rise, with 190 locations in the US attempting to unionize. Narasimhan’s decision is important for multiple reasons.
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Here are three reasons why the CEO’s decision to work at the cafe once a month is important:
1. Prioritizing the Customer Experience
Narasimhan’s decision reflects the company’s ongoing efforts to prioritize the customer experience. This move shows Starbucks’ commitment to creating a more welcoming environment and to better understanding the needs of its customers1. By working on the frontline, Laxman demonstrates his respect for the hard work baristas does on the job. Additionally, the CEO shows his willingness to get involved in the company’s operations, and not just from behind a desk. This willingness helps put the customer first but still shows Starbucks’ employees their needs are acknowledged and won’t be sacrificed.
2. Empowering Employees
Speaking of employees, the decision to work at a cafe once a month is also a sign of the CEO’s respect for the hard work and dedication of his employees. By working alongside them, Narasimhan is demonstrating his willingness to get involved and to better understand not only what is required but how and when, and where it is required. This move can help to foster a sense of empowerment among employees, who may feel more valued and appreciated as a result (or at the very least, can give the roughest duties to the man at the top of the pyramid whenever they can).
3. Preserving the Human Element of the Coffee Shop Experience
The rise of automation and technology threatens to diminish the role of baristas and the human element of the coffee shop experience. Starbucks has been experimenting with automated espresso machines and mobile ordering to improve efficiency. Still, these changes have also led to a decrease in the number of baristas on staff and site2. Narasimhan’s decision shows that the human element of the coffee shop experience is still important and worth preserving, or else why would he take part himself? It’s clear that the value of human interaction and the importance of creating a welcoming environment for customers is still a high priority for the company.
The Starbucks CEO’s decision to work at a cafe once a month seems to be a positive sign for the future of coffee shops. It demonstrates the importance of leadership by example, prioritizing the customer experience, empowering its employees, and preserving the human element of the coffee shop experience. By working on the frontline, Narasimhan shows that he understands the needs and concerns of his employees and customers and is committed to creating a more welcoming and personal environment in Starbucks cafes.
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- “Starbucks CEO says he’ll work a shift at the company’s cafes once a month.” CNBC. Amelia Lucas. March 23, 2023.
- “Starbucks’s new CEO will work in cafes once a month.” Washington Post. Taylor Telford. March 24, 2023.