Business

'Howard's future plans are up to him' — How Starbucks wants baristas to talk about Schultz

Posted January 31, 2019 6:41 p.m. EST

— Starbucks has a plan for employees who are asked about Howard Schultz's presidential ambitions.

If a customer wants to know whether or not the coffee company's former CEO is planning to run, baristas can say "Howard's future plans are up to him."

If someone gets confrontational about politics, employees might try "we respect everyone's opinion. Our goal is simply to create a warm and welcoming space where we can all gather, as a community, over great coffee."

The guidelines, obtained this week by The Huffington Post, were sent out to employees as part of a longer, regular weekly update. This version included the tips and other guidelines for answering questions related to Schultz's new book, "From the Ground Up," about his personal history and time at Starbucks.

The company sometimes uses the weekly communication to help employees navigate difficult conversations, a company spokesperson told CNN Business. For example, the company offers tips on how to speak with customers who ask personal religious questions when holiday cups are announced.

Schultz spent several years as CEO of Starbucks. He transitioned from CEO to executive chairman in 2017, and stepped down as chairman last year.

Now, he's seriously considering running for president as a "centrist independent" in 2020. Democratic critics say that Schultz — who used to be a Democrat but has since left the party — may help reelect President Donald Trump if he runs.

Schultz doesn't think a potential run will affect Starbucks or its employees. "Starbucks is as healthy a company as it's ever been in its history," he told CNN's Poppy Harlow.

Starbucks' current CEO, Kevin Johnson, wrote an open letter to employees on Monday.

"Many of us will inevitably be asked if the company supports a possible presidential candidacy of Howard," Johnson wrote. "As a company, we don't get involved in national political campaigns. And nothing changes for Starbucks."

For Starbucks, it's important to be a "third place" between home and work where customers feel welcome, even if they're not making any purchases.

Starbucks uses guidelines and trainings to help employees foster that environment. After two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia Starbucks, the company's leaders apologized and conducted racial bias training to help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.