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Starbucks Middle East stores to lay off 2000 amid boycott calls over Gaza war

The cuts amounted to about 4% of AlShaya's total workforce

Starbucks Middle East stores to lay off 2000 amid boycott calls over Gaza war
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Since the Gaza-Israel war, international brands have been mired in the conflict. While Zara drew fire for one of its ads, shoppers threatened to boycott Starbucks over its criticism of its workers’ union’s since-deleted tweet that expressed solidarity with Palestinians. The CEO of Web Summit resigned last October after comments he made on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

McDonald’s has also faced boycott campaigns from both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups over their perceived stance on the conflict, while activists have also targeted Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut, among other chains.

The reaction highlights the heightened sensitivity international brands are navigating as fighting across Gaza intensifies and calls for company boycotts rise. 

Boycotts on Starbucks linked to the Gaza war have resulted in losses of $11 billion, as recorded in December 2023. 

Last October, when the boycotts first started, Starbucks announced that it was a non-political organization, dismissing rumors that it had provided support to the Israeli government or army. 

In January, the coffee franchise said that the boycotts were damaging business in the region, having missed its Q1 expectations. The boycotts initially began in the US.

Now, the Gulf retail giant AlShaya Group, which owns the rights to operate Starbucks in the Middle East region, is expected to lay off over 2,000 people after taking hits from consumer boycotts.

The Starbucks operator cited business conditions behind its decision to fire just over 10% of its workforce in its MENA locations. 

“As a result of the continually challenging trading conditions over the last six months, we have taken the very sad and very difficult decision to reduce the number of colleagues” in Starbucks stores in the region, the Alshaya Group told the Associated Press. 

The layoffs were first reported by Reuters.

Alshaya operates roughly 1,900 Starbucks stores in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. 

The group has owned the rights to operate Starbucks coffee shops in the Middle East since 1999, with 2,000 outlets operating in 13 countries across MENA and central Asia.

The Innovation By Design Summit is in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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