Image: Starbucks store
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Starbucks will close 7,100 stores nationwide for three hours to retrain about 135,000 in-store employees and people who oversee the stores.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/26/2008 7:19:06 PM ET 2008-02-27T00:19:06

Starbucks is shutting its doors for three hours Tuesday night, the latest drastic step in a companywide bid to improve its sagging fortunes.

The shutdown is one of several big moves spearheaded by Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz, who recently took back the reins of the company amid concerns that it was losing its edge and facing increased competition from the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.

Schultz has said the shutdown, which begins at 5:30 p.m. local time, is a way to energize its 135,000 employees and provide some barista re-education in the "art of espresso" at its 7,100 U.S. locations.

In a memo to employees and the public, Schultz said the goal of the closure was to improve the so-called "Starbucks Experience" — the company's shorthand for its mixture of service, ambience and coffee that spurred its explosive growth and success in recent years.

"We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us," Schultz wrote in a memo titled "Howard Schultz Transformation Agenda Communication #8."

The move comes about a year after a memo was made public in which Schultz openly fretted about whether the Starbucks brand was being watered down by changes including adding automated espresso machines and using pre-ground, pre-packaged coffee in stores. Both moves have robbed the stores of some of their aroma and romance but have allowed customers to get their caffeine fix more quickly.

Schultz, Starbucks' longtime chairman, has made several changes aimed at reviving Starbucks' growth since taking on the chief executive role in January.

Last week, the company announced that it was cutting 600 positions.

Starbucks also recently announced that it was droppping its hot breakfast sandwiches, which some customers liked but which many baristas said were smelly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts

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