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'We are working the hardest that we can': Caribou coffee employees plead for patience amid staff shortages

Like many restaurants and retailers across the nation, the Minnesota-based coffee chain is struggling to fill positions.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — Chase Beaty takes pride in serving customers at Caribou Coffee. The 24-year-old works at two different store locations.

"We really put our heart and energy to making the drinks and making sure that the customers are satisfied," said Beaty.

However, nowadays, it's a bit harder to put a smile on customers' faces. Shortened hours at several locations and temporary closures due to staff shortages have frustrated coffee drinkers eager for their fix.

"They want their coffee and they don't have so much time to wait," said Beaty. "But we are so short-staffed, it's almost like it's a race."

As wait times for drinks lengthen, tensions rise.

"They're yelling at us, [saying] I don't have time for this!" said Beaty. "And then they'll budge in line...just for a coffee."

Beaty's manager, Isaiah Banko, says the hiring shortage has been the worst it's been in the 11 years he's worked for the company.

"There's staff that leaves and comes and goes," said Banko. "There's not really much of an applicant flow either. We have walk-in interviews two days a week, and we have nobody that comes in."

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Many locations have closed dining rooms and moved to drive-thru only. Others have limited hours, closing up shop at 2 p.m. or earlier.

"Customers for the most part are understanding, because we've been living in a world of chaos," Banko said.

Yet others take frustrations to social media or to the counter the next day.

"[Some] customers are like, 'I showed up at 1:15 and you guys were closed!' We don't want to close," said Banko. "Of course we don't want to close."

For now, Banko is charging ahead, relying on the company's amped up hiring initiatives.

"This is my first job, and I've stuck with it," Banko said. "This has always been the place where I could really be me."

A spokesperson for the company said students returning to school contributed to the staff shortage.

"We typically see turnover and increased recruiting activity this time of year," a spokesperson said in an email. "There are added challenges this year that we are working to react to from an operational standpoint."

Still, the company has been able to open new locations recently in Rochester, Brainerd, Isanti and Buffalo. 

"Caribou Coffee’s core values have been our best asset in navigating labor shortage challenges," said the spokesperson. "Our people are our foundation, and we have prioritized investing in attracting, training, and retaining a best-in-class team, efforts that have helped fuel our brand’s resilience and continued success."

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