June 10 (UPI) -- Starbucks announced Wednesday that the company will close some stores and focus on a new model of drive-through and "to-go" services as customers adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Seattle-based gourmet coffee company closed many stores in March following local safety precautions due to the pandemic. As many as 400 U.S. cafes will not be reopening over the next 18 months, based on expiring leases and a new Starbucks "to-go" focus. The company runs almost 30,000 locations worldwide.
"Starbucks stores have always been known as the 'third place,' a welcoming place outside of our home and work where we connect over a cup of coffee," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement. "As we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis, we are accelerating our store transformation plans to address the realities of the current situation, while still providing a safe, familiar and convenient experience for our customers."
Even before the pandemic, more than 80 percent of Starbucks sales were from customers using the cell phone app to order and pay in advance, the company said.
The company said it would be expanding the Starbucks Pickup store model in dense urban markets, including New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.
In suburban areas, customers will find new drive-through options, including curb-side pickup and walkup windows, where purchases can be made in advance with the Starbucks phone app.
High-volume cafes will be remodeled with fast pickup windows for couriers from Uber Eats and other delivery services, the company said.
New changes will promote "higher levels of mobile ordering, more contactless pick-up experiences and reduced in-store congestion, all of which naturally allow for greater physical distancing," the company said.