Starbucks’ New CEO Tells Investors He Plans to Follow the Schultz Roadmap
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Starbucks’ New CEO Tells Investors He Plans to Follow the Schultz Roadmap

By Sabrina Escobar
Fri, Nov 3, 2023 10:17amGrey Clock 4 min

Investors got a long-awaited glimpse of Starbucks’ future under CEO Laxman Narasimhan Thursday, when the company unveiled an updated strategic plan.

The so-called “Triple-Shot Reinvention Strategy,” which the company announced at an investor event in New York, comes nearly eight months after Narasimhan took the company’s reins from former CEO Howard Schultz.

The event was the first time many investors heard from Narasimhan about his long-term vision for the company. Those who feared a drastic about-face now that Schultz has stepped away can rest easy: Narasimhan describes his new plan as relying “on the foundation” of the reinvention plan laid out by Schultz in September 2022.

“This huge focus on my part, on my team’s part, over the last year to build the foundations—that is continuing,” Narasimhan said in an interview with Barron’s. “All we’ve done here is to say ‘Hey, there’s further stuff [to do] about the store, there are things to do in innovation that we can bring in.’”

Triple-Shot will focus on three areas intended to propel the next stage of the company: improving the store experience, scaling its digital capabilities, and expanding its global footprint. The plan also seeks to increase efficiency and reinvest in its employees.

The company believes the strategy paves the way for long-term revenue growth of 10% or greater, and earnings per share growth of 15% or greater. Long-term guidance issued in 2022 called for revenue to grow between 10% to 12% annually through 2025, and earnings per share to increase between 15% and 20% in that time. Same-store sales will grow by at least 5%, Starbucks said Thursday. Last year, the company forecast they would grow between 7% and 9% annually.

Starbucks also announced a $3 billion cost savings plan, set to be implemented over the next three years.

The company’s store expansion plan is largely unchanged. Starbucks is reiterating its aim to operate 55,000 stores by 2030, an increase of 45% from its current tally of about 38,000. Most of these new store openings will be outside North America, Starbucks added.

Starbucks rewards members are expected to double from the current 79 million within the next five years.

Here are more takeaways from Thursday’s event.

Narasimhan Sees Better, More Efficient Stores.

The pandemic was hard on Starbucks stores, Narasimhan told Barron’s. The early stages of the lockdown snarled supply chains and closed off cafes. Many locations pivoted to drive-through and mobile-order only formats—and in the process, trained customers to drink their coffee on the go, analysts say.

Although grab-and-go is typically a more profitable business model than the company’s traditional sit-down cafe model, it comes with a new set of challenges. Perhaps the biggest is the impact on baristas. Some baristas told Barron’s that their jobs have gotten more stressful with the rise of mobile ordering and delivery, as they now have to juggle an onslaught of orders that, in some cafes, have turned every hour into rush hour.

“A lot of things didn’t go the way that they normally do for a company that was focused on human connection,” Narasimhan said.

Triple-Shot aims to streamline baristas’ work every step of the way—from overhauling back-end procedures, such as recording inventory, to improving daily minutiae, like the way customers pick up their orders. Part of this effort includes opening stores with new layouts, like drive-through only or delivery only, to better serve the needs of the local market. Starbucks is planning on increasing the number of take-out only or delivery-only stores, both of which comprise 1% or less of the current store portfolio. By 2025, Starbucks aims to redirect 40% of delivery orders to delivery-only stores.

Through its investment in efficiencies, the company says it can cut more than $3 billion in costs over the next three years up and down the supply chain. It plans to reinvest those funds in the business and to deliver shareholder returns.

Investments in Employees Will Continue

Starbucks announced plans to invest $1 billion in employee initiatives, including installing new technology in stores, raising wages, boosting benefits, and improving scheduling. Since 2020, hourly total cash compensation has increased by nearly 50%. By 2025, the company plans to double hourly incomes compared with 2020 through more hours and higher wages.

This is the second round of workforce investment Starbucks has rolled out since it started dealing with a rise in unionisation activity two years ago. The first billion-dollar round was announced in May 2022, and was funneled into pay raises, additional training, and better technology in stores.

Some union members and politicians have criticised the way Schultz and the company handled the company’s early stages of unionisation. They point to dozens of complaints the National Labor Relations Board has filed against the company, and Schultz’s public comments that unions were contrary to his vision for Starbucks. A month after Narasimhan took control of the company, a group of more than 40 of the union’s allies sent him a letter, urging him to “create and build a healthy working relationship with unionised partners.”

Close to half a year later, Narasimhan’s stance on unionisation is still a bit of a mystery, investors say. When Barron’s asked him how the employee investments factored into his and the company’s perspective on unionisation, he said he would only talk about the partner investments. The company has long emphasised the investments made in its workforce when asked about unionisation efforts.

“We have a holistic view of the kind of bridge that we provide our partners to a better future and it is grounded in the idea of a strong operating culture,” he told Barron’s. “It is grounded in the idea of human connection. If you look even at our mission, every word in that mission is about giving the barista agency.”

Global Expansion and China

China has become Starbucks’ second largest market after the U.S. On Thursday, the company reaffirmed its commitment to growing in the country despite rising operational challenges.

“I’m really bullish on China, in the long run,” Narasimhan said in an interview.

He added that the company was also planning on expanding even further in other international markets. Three out of four new stores over the near term will be opened in markets outside the U.S., including in Southeast Asia and Latin America.By 2030, the company plans to have 35,000 stores outside of North America. As of Oct. 1, it had a little over 21,000 international stores.

Starbucks stock closed 9.5% higher Thursday, buoyed by a stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth quarter. Shares were largely unchanged in after-hours trading, up 0.2%.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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