New Starbucks CEO plans to work in stores monthly

Starbucks’ new CEO Laxman Narasimhan says he plans to work a half-day shift once a month in one of the company’s stores in an effort to stay close to the company’s culture and customers.

Narasimhan, who took the reins as CEO earlier this week, said in a letter to Starbucks’ employees Thursday that he also expects the company’s leadership team to be connected and engaged in stores.

"While our performance is strong, our health needs to be stronger," Narasimhan wrote in the letter. "We must care for the artists and the theater in the front of our stores, and the factory in the back."

The CEO’s plan to work in stores is new for Seattle-based Starbucks, but not unprecedented among big companies. DoorDash CEO Tony Xu and his executive team make DoorDash deliveries once a month, for example.

Narasimhan, 55, issued the letter prior to the company’s annual meeting, which was held virtually. The former PepsiCo executive has spent the last six months immersing himself in Starbucks, earning his barista certification as well as visiting stores, farms and manufacturing centers across the world.

In comments emailed to The Associated Press, Narasimhan said his first priority is addressing some of the company’s limits. A reinvention plan announced last fall is helping make stores more efficient and retain employees thanks to better pay and benefits, he said.

Narasimhan said he would like to see Starbucks evolve into a more global company, be less wasteful and move with greater speed.

"My immersion provided me with exposure to every aspect of Starbucks business, culture, and brand," he said. "Together, we have acknowledged the opportunity for a refounding of Starbucks."

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Narasimhan succeeds longtime Starbucks leader Howard Schultz, who came out of retirement last spring to serve as interim CEO while the company searched for a new chief executive. Schultz will remain on the company’s board.