DECATUR — If you've tried to order a pumpkin scone or turkey-bacon sandwich at Starbucks in the past few days, you've been out of luck.
Signs on the drive-through and in the store offer an apology to customers for the unavailability of many items, citing "delays from a nationwide supplier." The company's mobile app showed that a majority of food items were unavailable Saturday and several days before that at the Decatur store, 255 W. Mound Road. Stores in the Chicago area have experienced similar shortages, according to multiple media reports from the last week.
Starbucks spokeswoman Sarah Albanesi said Friday that the issue was caused by a reallocation of supplies that she said was being resolved. “The Starbucks food will be delivered to the stores soon,” she said. She was not able to give a specific date.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have for our customers,” she said.
Albanesi denied rumors that the situation was connected to a labor dispute with DPI Specialty Foods Inc., one of the company's food suppliers. DPI did not respond to an email seeking comment, but a company spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 3 that “any Starbucks shortages are unrelated to the labor dispute.”
But dozens of social media posts have attributed the shortage to a strike of DPI workers. More than 10 separate comment threads about the situation were started in the past 12 days on reddit, a widely used discussion forum, by people who identified themselves as baristas and managers. Commenters said there were problems at stores in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. Customers and employees also voiced frustrations about the issue on Twitter.
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Dear customers please don’t be rude to your Starbucks baristas if they ran out of things. It’s not our fault that DPI isn’t paying their workers what they deserve! So they had to go on strike like we literally are running out of cups since we aren’t getting any shipments in 😐😭— ponte las pilas (@murogio1880) August 27, 2019
The Wall Street Journal reported last month on failed contract negotiations between DPI and Teamsters Local 710, which covers nearly 300 drivers and warehouse workers at facilities in the Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Louis areas. The union voted to reject a proposed contract and authorize a strike on Aug. 22, but no action was scheduled and members were told to keep working, the newspaper reported.
The union said it had been negotiating for a five-year agreement, but the company only offered a seven-month contract for workers in Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis, and a one-year agreement for those in Indianapolis. A union representative said it appeared to be clear that Starbucks planned to stop using DPI as a provider, something that a Starbucks spokesperson also confirmed to The Wall Street Journal. The spokesperson said Starbucks is not renewing its contracts with DPI because the provider lacks the capacity and infrastructure to support planned growth in the region.
@ fellow starbucks employees are y’alls stores also falling apart because of the DPI strike? we’ve got absolutely no food— alexx • 35 days (@Spideyxrogers) August 30, 2019
On reddit, employees who said they were from various Midwest locations vented about the situation and sought information from each other. Some said they were dealing with backlash from angry customers.
"Worst week ever," one person wrote on Aug. 29. "We have no bags of espresso, venti iced cups, grande venti some lids, java chips, cloud powder, etc. and I’m so overwhelmed."
"I feel so badly for the nice customers who are loyal to us and we can't help them," wrote another. "I just wish we just had a timeline for how long this might be."