x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Starbucks pulls out of primary school after parents object

The coffee franchise has scrapped a plan to open an outlet at a Dubai primary school after parents expressed fears that it might attract outsiders.

DUBAI // Starbucks has scrapped a plan to open an outlet at a primary school after parents expressed fears that it might attract outsiders, the school's headmaster said. The US-based coffee shop giant had furnished an outlet in the reception of Gems Jumeirah Primary School (JPS) ahead of a trial run that would probably have begun this week. But in a letter to parents last Thursday, the school's headmaster confirmed that the shop was being dismantled and the reception returned to its original state.

"Whilst there have been a large number of positive comments in relation to the coffee shop proposal, there have also been some concerns from others," wrote Stephen Chynoweth. "Some of these comments have been reflected in local media. Starbucks have now informed us that they are withdrawing their involvement." Parents of pupils at JPS, who face long waits for their children after school, have for years requested a coffee shop at the school to give them somewhere to meet.

However, the news that the school had partnered with Starbucks sparked debate. Some parents voiced concern over how the school would control access to the shop during busy times. They said the shop's branding could attract unwanted visitors. The school had promised to tighten access to the school by vetting all staff, limiting access to the shop to teaching staff and parents, and placing an extra security officer outside at peak times.

Rana Shaheen, the communications manager of Starbucks Coffee ME & Egypt, which is operated by the Kuwaiti company MH Alshaya Co, said: "The idea of establishing a Starbucks coffee outlet at the Gems Jumeirah Primary School in Dubai was initiated by the school as a trial project to gauge the response of parents. "Feedback indicates that the outlet is unlikely to materialise and we are happy to support the community and its wishes."

Although Starbucks is no longer in the picture, Mr Chynoweth said it was clear that parents still wanted a coffee shop and the school would continue to discuss the issue with them. While some parents lamented Starbucks' departure on the online forum www.expatwoman.com, others were pleased that their objections had been heard. One parent, who did not want to be named, said she hoped that a less commercial coffee shop would be installed.

loatway@thenational.ae