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Starbucks Suspends US Happy Hours Due To Crowd Concerns As COVID-19 Surges

By Dave Simpson

Starbucks Corp customers in the United States will have to pay the full $5.65 for a second grande Eggnog Latte this holiday season, as the company suspends two-for-one deals due to overcrowding concerns amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Happy Hour events scheduled for December 17 and January 7 have been cancelled, according to an internal memo to employees posted inside stores and seen by Reuters.

Last December, the world's largest coffee chain held the events each week, totalling four that month.

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"Partner care and safety remains the top priority," the note said. "However, with the anticipated rise in [COVID-19] cases as a result of holiday travel and the latest guidance from the scientific community to not gather indoors in large groups for a prolonged period of time, we feel it is best to pause Happy Hours."

Starbucks president of US and Canada retail Rossann Williams originally alerted employees to the pause on December 1, the company confirmed in an e-mail to Reuters.

Williams had told employees in a memo that they all shared a responsibility to "protect each other, our customers and our business as we navigate this pandemic."

A spokeswoman said that the company will re-asses Happy Hour in early January. A December 3 event was also cancelled.

Happy Hours helped lift Starbucks' slumping sales when the company re-introduced them in October of 2018. Visits increased more than 11% during the events on average during the fourth quarter of that calendar year, according to a January report from advertising platform inMarket.

The events boost foot traffic during a normally slow time of day - afternoons and evenings. But as the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and Canada this year, Happy Hours in those markets also helped offset reduced visits during breakfast hours as people stopped commuting to work.

Happy Hours are on Thursdays from 2 pm to 7 pm and usually scheduled every few weeks, for customers who download the Starbucks app.

Suspensions Earlier This Year

Starbucks had suspended Happy Hour and Double-Star Days promotions in the US and Canada earlier this year as government restrictions shut dining rooms. It restarted the deals in June, according to media reports.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
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