Why You Should Expect Long Lines During Your Next Starbucks Visit

Picking up your morning java before you start your day used to be a simple case dropping by the neighborhood Starbucks to pick up a cup of coffee — either by pre-ordering through your app, or (if you're patient) standing in line and waiting your turn. But it appears that neither will help you pick up your order more quickly now, thanks to the latest coronavirus wave that's causing more workers call in sick.

Like many companies — from airlines to supermarkets, restaurants to hospitals — Starbucks says the highly contagious Omicron variant is causing a wave of absences, which, in turn, is causing stores to re-evaluate not just their operating hours, but the types of services they offer and the products they are able to sell. In a statement to USA Today, the coffee giant acknowledged the unique difficulties each store is facing with its staffing levels, and stated that it was up to each outlet to figure out how adjustments might best be made. "As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, local leaders can, and do scale operations based on partner availability and local COVID-19 factors," Starbucks says. "These decisions are made on a store-by-store and market-by-market basis."

Starbucks had had a vaccine mandate in place

Its safe to stay that Starbucks may have seen this coming, because days after Christmas 2021, the coffee giant sent a letter to its 220,000 employees across the country, asking them to either get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or subject themselves to weekly testing. Workers were also told they had to disclose their vaccination status by January 10 (via CNN Business). 

Starbucks' stand on the matter was made clear in the letter from Chief Operating Officer John Culver, who called the company mandate "an important step we can take to help more partners get vaccinated, limit the spread of Covid-19, and create choices that partners can own based on what's best for them."

Culver added: "If vaccination rates rise and community spread slows, we will adapt accordingly. But if things get worse, we may have to consider additional measures. For now, my hope is that we will all do our part to protect one another."

It appears even this vaccine policy couldn't head off the impact of what CBS is calling "the great American sickout."  An estimated 5 million workers are now said to be self-isolating due to COVID, which triggered what Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian called "hellacious" staff shortages. So for now, at least, it may be a good idea to give your morning Starbucks a hard pass — or at least keep an eye on your app, which could tell you which items are out of stock or if your go-to location has shortened hours.