A Chinese web user took to social media on Monday to accuse a Starbucks employee in the southwestern city of Chongqing of driving out a group of on-duty police officers, on the grounds that their eating at the storefront would affect the coffee brand’s image.
Starbucks later issued a public apology. According to the firm, four policemen came to the store at about 5 p.m. on February 13, and the store staff arranged for them to have food in the outdoor guest area. Later, because other customers also needed outdoor guest seats, the store staff and the police became involved in a misunderstanding caused by the use of improper words.
Reports of the incident were later widely shared on Chinese social media platforms. Two months before the outbreak of this storm, Starbucks had just fallen into a food safety crisis in the country. On December 13, 2021, Starbucks stores in the eastern city of Wuxi were found to have sold food made with expired ingredients.
In January 1999, Starbucks, which was founded in 1971, opened its first store in Chinese mainland, located in the China World Trade Center, Beijing. At present, the Chinese market is Starbucks’ second largest consumer market except the United States. According to Starbucks’ financial report, in fiscal year 2021, Starbucks China’s total revenue for the fiscal year was $3.65 billion, up 42.14% year-on-year.
Starbucks opened 538 new stores in the fourth quarter of last year, up 4% year-on-year. The total number of its stores in the world reached a record 33,833, of which 51% were run directly by Starbucks and 49% were licensed stores. As of the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, stores of Starbucks in the US and China accounted for 62% of all locations globally, with 15,450 and 5,360, respectively.