Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz just made a new vow for hiring veterans and military spouses: 25,000 by 2025. The fresh goal comes after the coffee giant hit a previous pledge of 10,000 a year early.
At his last annual meeting as CEO, Schultz was met with loud cheers when he told shareholders, “I am proud to announce that we have already met and exceeded that [10,000] goal.”
Starbucks (SBUX) also promised to open 100 more stores across the U.S. that are meant to be especially welcoming and supportive for military communities. (The 32 that already exist are located near major military bases.) By 2020, the chain also plans to hire 100,000 younger employees who are either not in school or unemployed, building on a commitment it made to hire 10,000 by 2018. Starbucks exceeded that pledge too.
Schultz’s promise to hire more veterans comes after a backlash when the chain announced in January it would hire 10,000 refugees in its stores worldwide, including some who have helped the U.S. military. The move came in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order to bar U.S. entry of refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries.
A social-media driven uproar followed, with a common complaint that Starbucks should instead hire veterans. But many critics didn’t seem aware the company has had a veteran-hiring program in place since 2013.
Some have since speculated that Starbucks’ politically charged pledge to hire refugees tarnished its image, though the company disputes that narrative and has said the brand hasn’t been hurt. Starbucks has reported consistent U.S. sales growth despite some broader traffic weakness for restaurant chains, though its latest quarterly results were issued in late January before the refugee-related boycott. The next results aren’t due until late April.
Schultz, who will be succeeded by Starbucks president and chief operating officer Kevin Johnson effective April 3, steps down at a time when shares have faced a recent lull. At the meeting, Schultz admitted that the stock’s performance over the past year as been a bit soft—a rarity for the company whose market value has swelled from $250 million at the time of its 1992 initial public offering to over $80 billion today. However, shares over the past year have declined by around 6% due to worries about softer growth in the U.S. Over that same period, the S&P 500 has climbed by 15%.
“We’ve always taken the long view and we’ve always tried to invest ahead of the growth curve,” Schultz said. After the longtime visionary behind brand building at Starbucks steps down as CEO, he will remain with the company to help oversee the design and development of the premium retail and coffee experience at larger Starbucks Reserve Roasteries locations. Those massive retail locations have cafes and tasting rooms and are propelling the company’s bigger bet on a more premium retail and coffee experience.