Starbucks internal memo shows 'race together' campaign was doomed from the start


Howard Schultz Starbucks CEO Race Together

REUTERS/David Ryder

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks about the company's "Race Together" campaign.

Starbucks' controversial campaign that encouraged baristas to talk about race relations with customers has been scaled back. 

Baristas will no longer be required to write the slogan #racetogether on drink cups or try to engage customers on the topic of racism in the US.

The campaign suffered a public backlash from the start, with critics accusing the company of using racial tension to sell coffee. The vitriol was so strong that it caused a senior Starbucks executive to temporarily suspend his Twitter account.

But the criticism probably isn't what killed the campaign. If anything, it was the logistics.

Here are the new responsibilities that Starbucks asked baristas to take on as part of the campaign, according to an internal memo obtained by Gawker


Most Starbucks baristas simply don't have the time to discuss anything other than coffee with customers.

Between taking orders, working the registers, making complicated drink orders, and preparing foods from the company's newly expanded menu, there's no time to write extra words on cups - much less entertain a debate on race relations.

Asking a single barista to chat can completely throw off a store's operations during busy periods, writes Jeb Lund in Rolling Stone.

"Just pulling Mike aside for two minutes was enough to see the number of waiting customers double," Lund writes of an effort to engage a Starbucks barista in a conversation on race relations last week. "He never stopped looking over his shoulder and attempting to perform a make-work task to obscure the fact that he was chatting. Like all multitasking, it left him doing more than one thing fairly badly - moving a towel around haphazardly while trailing off and having difficulty engaging questions."

Adding a few seconds to a customer's wait isn't just an inconvenience. It hurts business. 


McDonald's slower wait times have been credited as a key contributor to the company's declining sales.

Customers' drive-thru waits are nearly 20 seconds longer today than they were in 2001, according to QSR magazine.

Starbucks executives are well aware of how wait times can affect business. But in this case, it appears that management decided the campaign would at least temporarily take priority over store logistics. 

NOW WATCH: 6 Crazy Things Revealed In HBO's Explosive New Scientology Documentary 'Going Clear'