In a sign of just how seriously the restaurant industry is taking the spread of coronavirus in America, Seattle-based Starbucks said staff across its 14,000 U.S. sites are being told to wipe down busy areas of the store — ideally, every eight minutes.

If that can’t be achieved, stores shouldn’t go more than 30 minutes without being cleaned, Rossann Williams, the chain’s executive vice president of the U.S. company-operated business and Canada, said in a statement Thursday.

The company also announced other policy changes in its stores and offices to discourage the spread of coronavirus.

  • Starbucks is “pausing” the use of personal cups and so-called “for here” ware — reusable cups — in its stores. But it will continue to honor the 10-cent discount for anyone who brings in a personal cup or asks for “for here” ware.
  • It provided store managers “scenario-based procedural information” on how to handle employees who may be affected by the virus, and decisions on store closures.
  • It restricted all employee business-related air travel within the U.S. and internationally through March 31.
  • It modified or postponed large meetings across offices in the U.S. and Canada — including its annual shareholder meeting on March 18. Previously scheduled at the WaMu Theater in Seattle, the meeting will be online-only this year.

Williams said that the company had learned from the outbreaks across Asia and is bringing some of those measures to America. U.S. sites have added additional labor to help with cleaning, she said.

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In China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, Starbucks said sales will be down 50 percent from the previous comparable quarter, reducing earnings by 18 cents per share. The company reports 90% of its stores are now open. At the peak of the outbreak in early February, more than 80% were closed.

“With the number of new cases in China slowing, we are seeing the early signs of a recovery in the region. As a result, the situation is improving throughout major parts of China,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said in a letter posted online Thursday.

The coronavirus outbreak will curb Starbucks profit this quarter by as much 18 cents a share, the Seattle-based company said in a filing Thursday. The key measure of comparable sales, meanwhile, will fall about 50% in the second quarter for China from a year earlier.

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.

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