- Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz started the idea of empty chairs for customers and workers.
- Starbucks is known for pioneering benefits for part-time workers.
- Schultz left Starbucks in 2018.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Starbucks is known for offering some of the best benefits for workers in the fast food world, and a new insight about internal meetings shows how seriously the chain takes this.
Company meetings and conferences always have two empty chairs, one for the customer and one for the employee, Starbucks veteran Vivek Varma told Bloomberg. The empty chairs are there as a “reminder not to give shareholders outsize consideration,” over workers and customers, Varma said.
“Making our partners proud and ensuring they have ownership in the company has always been our approach dating as far back as when we served our first latte,” a spokesperson told Insider.
Starbucks workers are called partners because they are granted company stock after a certain period of employment.
Read more: Starbucks’ benefits boss explains how delivering unique incentives like fertility coverage and opportunities to further education are motivating its 350,000 employees and boosting the company’s bottom line
The idea dates back to former CEO Howard Schultz, who referenced it in his goodbye speech in 2018. “During all my years at Starbucks, in every weekly leadership meeting and quarterly board meeting, I always imagined two empty chairs in the room. One was for a partner and one for a customer,” the executive wrote.
“When I had to make a decision, I asked myself if the choice would make both proud. Today, I ask that you continue this tradition, and let the answer guide you. I promise the two chairs will serve you and the company well.”
Starbucks just reported record earnings and plans to invest more resources into cold brew and other cold drinks, which have proven hugely popular with customers.
Starbucks has pioneered many benefits for workers in the quick-service restaurant space, like full tuition coverage at Arizona State University and extending healthcare benefits to part-time workers back in 1988, making sure it also included domestic partnerships. The chain’s impact on the industry is evident as other businesses follow suit; Chipotle covers tuition for certain degrees, and Colorado chain Noodles & Company says it looks to Starbucks for leadership in benefits, Nancy Luna reported for Insider.
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