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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 22:47 GMT
Starbucks in temporary US closure
By Richard Lister
BBC News, Washington

Starbucks branch in Seattle
Starbucks serves 50m American customers a week
Starbucks coffee chain is to shut all of its US branches for three-and-a-half hours for staff training, in a blow to millions of Americans' daily routines.

The move has triggered a flurry of competition from rival coffee firms and comes after Starbucks' share value fell by half in the past year.

Starbucks serves 50m Americans a week and is part of the urban landscape.

All 7,000 branches across the US will close at 1730 local time to train the chain's 135,000 staff.

Those seeking their usual grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte on the way home from work will be disappointed.

'Renewed focus'

The chairman and founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, has promised "a renewed focus on espresso standards".

They also need to tackle the fact that people are not buying as much at Starbucks these days.

It recently announced 600 job losses and plans to scale back the number of new stores.

Rival coffee shops across the US immediately launched plans to lure Starbucks customers during the unprecedented closure period; offering reduced rate and even free coffee.

Alternatively, it is still possible just to go home and make a cup of instant.

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