Starbucks to close thousands of stores in US on Tuesday for anti-bias training

Credit: AP

Starbucks will close more than 8,000 cafes across the US on Tuesday to conduct “unconscious bias training”.

The move comes as the coffee shop giant tries to restore its tarnished image as a cafe where all customers are welcome.

After the arrests of two black men in Philadelphia in April at one of its stores, the coffee chain’s leaders apologised and met with the two men.

They also reached out to activists and experts in bias training to put together a curriculum for its 175,000 workers.

According to a video previewing the Starbucks training, there will be recorded remarks from Starbucks executives and rapper/activist Common.

From there, employees will “move into a real and honest exploration of bias” where, in small groups, they can share how the issue comes up in their daily work life.

Starbucks has described it as a “collaborative and engaging experience for store partners to learn together”.

The move has put a spotlight on the little-known world of “unconscious bias training”, which is used by many corporations, police departments and other organisations to help address racism in the workplace.

The training is typically designed to get people to open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of colour, gender or other identities.

The Perception Institute, a US consortium of researchers consulting with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as attitudes — positive or negative — or stereotypes someone has toward a person or group without being conscious of it.

A common example, according to some of its studies, is a tendency for white people to unknowingly associate black people with criminal behaviour.

Many retailers including US retail giants Walmart and Target said they already offer some racial bias training.

Target said it plans to expand that training. Department store chain Nordstrom has said it plans to enhance its training after issuing an apology to three black teenagers in Missouri who employees falsely accused of shoplifting.