The Lab

The Gang’s All Here

Running your business in the time of social distancing

Okay social distancing… we get it, you’re going to be here for a while. But with a thinned out staff and business slowing down, how are you going to sustain and grow your customer-base? Well… we’ve got a few ideas for you to try.

Disclaimer: These are all ideas that we’ve seen being put to use over the past few weeks by people all around the world. We suggest doing whatever you are entirely comfortable doing and in no way are we saying to get out there and put yourself or your team  at risk. Make sure to prepare yourself properly by following a trusted source’s guidelines.

Curbside Service – Required Staff Members 1 -2

Open your door or window and make some people happy with this idea. As one of the fastest growing styles of service right now, this is a sure fire way of retaining some of your customers and creating some normalcy (coffeeshop visits are a ritual) in a manageable fashion. Now, this can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You can install an app/ plug-in on your website or you can simply post your phone number on social media and take orders manually. Keep in mind people are not going out much these days, so plugging specials for whole bean coffee, brewing devices or snacks for ‘later’ can be a nice bonus for them, as well as for your business. If the pick up place is within the door, make sure to prop the door open, so your customers do not need to touch anything but their drink and accompanying items. From there, just provide a pick up time and start preparing their order!

Make sure that when your customers arrive, you have their orders ready and waiting in a safe and designated sanitary space that is at least 6 feet away from wherever your staff are working.  A nice extra is to provide sanitizer for your customers to use.

Local Delivery Required Staff Members 2 – 3

With a majority of the population working from home, it’s the perfect time to do some quick local deliveries of fresh roasted coffee. Delivery has been a thing forever, it’s just relatively low key in the coffee world… at least until now! These days anything goes, and we say go for it if you’re able to. Keep in mind, you’ll want to have a clean car that can handle all of the brewed coffee possible. A major plus is to have those nice rubber foot matts so if the coffee spills it can easily be cleaned up. Another necessity is to have someone that knows the local roads like the back of their hand. Speed is key here, no one likes a cold cappuccino.

Delivery can be a tricky task to take on. To make it as effective as possible try offering delivery for orders of $20 or more. For this option, we recommend having a few people on staff. Mainly because you’ll need someone to deliver the orders, one person to produce the drinks/food, and one person to answer phones. If you want to play this option safely, notify someone on your staff that they’ll be on call and start with just two employees. If business ramps up and you think you need one more person, make the call. Just be sure that your entire staff is 100% comfortable with working, are aware of all of the precautions they should take and that you have all of the necessary items for them to be as safe as possible.

Online Ordering Required Staff Members – 1

Cafe closed, but the roaster is still running? Perfect! Get a promo code ready on your site and get promoting! Your customers are mostly at home and are in dire need of a good cup of coffee. By offering free delivery within a certain distance and including those deliveries in with your Local Delivery route, you’ll be able to capture the business of some of those groggy customers who are stuck at home.

Maybe for this time period, try offering bags that are a little bit larger than usual to move through more of your stockpile. That is, if you can get your hands on one or two pound bags. Don’t have a website yet? No problem! Check out our guide to developing an awesome online business here. As for staffing, online has an extremely low overhead. You can probably get away with one to two people for lower volume shops/roasteries.

Wholesale Required Staff Members 1 -2

Now this may sound like a far reach right now, but think about it. People are stocking up on everything in doubles right now. Including coffee. That being the case, this could be a prime time to start eying up some of your local grocery stores or grocer online services and making some phone calls. They could be working with a competitor that simply can’t supply the products that they need fast enough and may be in need of a second supplier. That’s your opportunity to offer amazing coffees at a reasonable rate to get some coffee moving off of your shelves sooner rather than later!

This option will require a little bit of work, but hey… there’s time to get going! Our suggestion would be to start with smaller grocery stores in your community. You’ll want to approach this in a similar fashion to getting your average wholesale business off the ground, just with more competitive pricing and a bit more charm. Staff-wise, you’ll need someone to roast, handle phone calls/ search out new customers, and deliver. If you can handle all of this yourself successfully, go for it! Otherwise our recommendation would be one to two people for this one.

Third-Party ResellersRequired Staff Members 1 -2

Have you noticed how many ads pop up offering a variety of coffees these days?  The web is filed with websites that offer either multi-roaster subscription services or just offer a variety of roasters to purchase from.  More outlets for your coffee to be sold – yes please!  What’s the catch you ask?  Well, these resellers need a cut to promote and distribute your coffee.  This means you will need to have a little wiggle room with your prices to be able to work with them.  Some examples are Trade or MistoBox.  Now that you have clicked on those two links, I am sure that the google algorithm will do the rest of the work finding more resellers. Usually, they just require some photos of your product (maybe a sample to make sure they like you) and bam, you are good to go.  Orders just funnel through them and go directly to you.  Easy-peasy.

This option does involve a bit of coordination, a slightly higher price threshold but is worth the work and can last on and continue to grow sales even after this whole mess is over.

Donations Staff Members 1 – 2

Now, this is more about your community than your business. Everyone is going through this insanity together and it’s important that we remember to take care of each other. The recipients will appreciate your efforts and will become friends of you and your business. People remember who was there for them when times were tough.  Dropping off some brewed coffee to your local hospital, unemployment office, post office etc speaks highly of your character.  This can also be a way to manage some inventory challenges.  But, of course don’t give more than you can afford, your business is important to your community and we want to see you open your doors wide again for bushels of customers once this is all over. 

These are tough times for everyone, but we know that the coffee community can overcome anything. Stay strong, happy, and healthy. We’ll all be sharing lattes again soon!

Mike Ward

Mike is a new Trader at Royal Coffee NY. Before joining the team at Royal, he spent 7+ years with a rapidly expanding roaster in Monmouth County NJ. In his time with them he managed their e-commerce platform, assisted in marketing, product launches, and green buying. As a certified Q grader, being surrounded by coffee all the time is his absolute dream.