Starbucks UK is investigating after video emerged of an employee telling a homeless man he couldn't eat his purchased meal on the cafe's premises.
The incident happened at a Starbucks in Southend-on-Sea, east of London, earlier this week.
The man, heavily bearded and wearing ripped jeans and an open jacket and no shirt, sits silently as the man who paid for the meal argues with the staff member and security guard.
"You can't just ask him to leave," Sajid Kahlon tells them, in footage obtained by local news outlet Your Southend.
"Let him eat the food and he can leave. What's the problem? ... Is he not human?"
Kahlon said he paid £8.45 (NZ$16.60) for the meal.
The barista tells Kahlon the homeless man "can't stay here".
"He comes here all the time... He's going to come back."
Another customer appears to back the staff member, telling Kahlon "he's right".
Starbucks told Your Southend the argument was "not indicative of the environment we strive to create".
"We are looking into the circumstances surrounding this customer's experience and will take appropriate action to ensure our stores remain welcoming places for everyone."
More than 2000 people left comments on the video after it was posted to Your Southend's Facebook page.
"Starbucks you should be ashamed," one person wrote. "He had food that had been paid for and had every right to sit and enjoy this wonderful man's gesture. Where is your compassion for those less fortunate?"
"All about image," another suggested. "Someone might not buy Starbucks because a homeless guy is sitting outside with a very kindly gifted meal. This is so wrong - he has every right to sit and enjoy his meal. Well done to the man who bought it for him."
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One local confirmed the homeless man is often seen hanging outside Starbucks, but argued on this occasion he should have been allowed to stay.
"He is very dirty and another homeless man told me that he doesn't do anything to help himself. Difficult situation for the staff (however eating his food that has been paid for, he should be able to sit there)."
It's not clear how the standoff ended.
It comes just days after Starbucks staff in Chelsea forced a man suffering bowel disease to get out of the disabled toilet because he'd been in there for more than 20 minutes.