Starbucks Shifts to ‘To Go’ format in US, Canada as Virus Spreads

Starbucks Corp has closed its dine-in areas and switched to a "to go" format for at least two weeks to help control the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and Canada.

The world's largest coffee chain said on Sunday it would also temporarily close stores in communities with high numbers of coronavirus cases, as well as malls and university campuses.

The unprecedented move comes as authorities in New York, Los Angeles and other global cities shut down bars, restaurants, theaters and cinemas to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a take-out or delivery basis.

On Monday, burger chain Shake Shack Inc said it would temporarily shift to a take-out model in all of its U.S. company-owned restaurants. The company also withdrew its 2020 forecasts, citing "unprecedented market conditions."

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, has killed 60 people and infected over 3,600 in the United States.

Globally, the virus has infected over 169,000 people and killed more than 6,500.

"The situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the proactive decisions necessary," said Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks' U.S. company-operated and Canada businesses.

The company had earlier warned of a hit to second-quarter from the outbreak in China, with comparable store sales there falling about 50%.

Starbucks had earlier stopped accepting reusable cups and thermos flasks from customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa after announcing a similar policy in the United States.

Shares of Shake Shack and Starbucks were down 18.1% and 12.9%, respectively, amid a broader market slump.

Source: Voice of America