Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the company's annual shareholder's meeting in Seattle, Washington
By Joseph White
(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp head Howard Schultz told employees on Sunday they will no longer be encouraged to write "Race Together" on drinks cups, but the company's effort to promote discussion of racial issues “is far from over”.
The world's biggest coffee chain kicked off a U.S. race relations campaign last week when it published full-page ads in major U.S. newspapers with the words "Shall We Overcome?" at centre page and "RaceTogether" and the Starbucks logo near the bottom.
Employees behind the counter were also given the option of writing "Race Together" on customers' cups.
The campaign was met with skepticism on social media, with many complaining the company was overstepping it boundaries with a campaign on sensitive cultural topics that had no place in the coffee shop's lines.
Starbucks said the phase of the campaign that involved messages on drink cups was always scheduled to end Sunday.
“I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you – let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Chief Executive Schultz wrote in a letter to staff and released by the company on Sunday. “We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most.”
Schultz said Starbucks plans more “Race Together” activities, including efforts to expand into urban neighbourhoods, hire 10,000 “opportunity youth” over the next three years, and produce advertising on the campaign with Gannett Co.’s USA Today.
(Reporting By Joseph White; editing by Susan Thomas)