KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's more than mere window dressing.
Many Starbucks stores across the Kansas City metro closed for part of Tuesday afternoon, as employees received mandatory racial bias training. But at least one local expert in the field of corporate training said the java giant isn't doing enough.
The king of coffee is putting its money where its mouth is. That's the way one Starbucks store manager from outside the metro worded it, as three of midtown Kansas City's Starbucks stores, including the busy location on 39th Street at Genesse, were among about 8,000 locations nationally to close early on Tuesday, sending its employees to racial bias training.
The company stands to lose a reported $12 million for closing its doors this way.
All across the Kansas City metro, customers who came to the restaurants after 2:30 p.m. were greeted by a locked door. Staff members could be seen inside several locations, as corporate trainers conducted the training sessions. Every Starbucks employee, including managers, were required to attend.
The racial bias training sessions looked like damage control to Emmanuel Ngomsi, who operates All World Languages and Cultures, where he conducts dozens of these corporate seminars each month. Nogmsi, a native of Cameroon, isn't part of the training course being conducted by Starbucks, but he has been hired by multiple metro hospitals and school districts to provide comparable training courses.
"My first reaction was, 'Great, let's see how it's going to go,'" Ngomsi told FOX4.
Starbucks chose to conduct the training after a January incident, where two African-American men in Philadelphia were arrested for waiting inside one of the coffee shop locations. Store managers called the police when they noticed those customers weren't buying anything. Starbucks has since settled with those two men.
"We all carry biases. Some are implicit," Ngomsi said. "Starbucks will do even better if they continue to do it. Not just one session in the month of May because something happened six weeks earlier."
Ngomsi criticized Starbucks for doing damage control instead of being consistent in training employees before a controversial incident takes place.
"I don't know how long this training is going to be, but one four hours is not going to do it," Ngomsi said.
Coffee customers in the metro found a letter taped to the door of at least three locations. The message "We'll see you tomorrow," served as the header on each document. It went on to read as follows:
"At Starbucks, we are proud to be a third place -- a place between home and work where everyone is welcome. A place where everyone feels that they belong. Today, our store team is reconnecting with our mission and with each other. We are sharing our ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming."
"I think anytime you have a contentious social issue like this, the bet way to address it is through dialogue. Whether that starts with the staff themselves, and that bleeds into consumers, that's a good thing," Tim Lindstrom, a Starbucks customer from Wisconsin, told FOX 4 News.
"Whatever happened over there, there's nobody suing anybody," said Victor Pacheco, a Starbucks customer from KCK. "Why should this company lose any money? A fairs-fair is like a handshake. It could have happened in a restaurant."
The company's 8,000 stores that closed on Tuesday will reopen on Wednesday morning at their usual time. One Starbucks manager told FOX4 many stores will have added security in case there's backlash.