Is Morale Among Starbucks Store Workers at a 9-Year Low?

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An organization called hosts a petition for Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) workers to vent their concerns that the coffee retailer’s stores are understaffed. The petition states that the staff levels have hurt customer service and damaged morale. One worker said that morale is at a nine-year low. Whether the petition represents the opinions of all Starbucks’ store staff is impossible to tell. However, the uprising has to worry Starbucks management.

The petition reads, in part:

Our goal is simple. We want Starbucks corporate to listen to what we have to say and understand that the current labor practices are sinking morale at corporate stores. Baristas feel the force of the labor cuts and the gross underemployment because of the new standard. We understand that businesses have to be profitable to survive, we get it. What’s happening currently is some of the most extreme labor cuts in Starbucks history.

Starbucks’ history of profits and top-line growth has fueled a 130% share price gain over the past five years, compared to an 81% improvement in the S&P 500. Starbucks faces the same challenges other fast-food companies do. It may have overbuilt stores, which threatens same-store sales. It also has stiff competition from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Morale is an ongoing problem at companies that have tens of thousands of low-paid workers who serve customers. Late last year, Starbucks was included in 24/7 Wall St.’s “Companies Paying Americans the Least.” In the most recent American Customer Satisfaction survey of full service and limited service restaurants, Starbucks finished behind Dunkin’ Donuts. Starbucks did gain over the previous year.

Worker morale is probably underrated among the things that affect customer service. However, if front-line workers are constantly dissatisfied, it is bound to hurt customer service. Starbucks cannot afford this in a highly competitive market. The petition indicates the company is not free of complaints that pose a danger.