Atlanta Coffee Shops in the Age of COVID-19

Like many of you, Atlanta Coffee Shops has been vigilant and paying attention to the day-to-day developments in the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic around the world.

In this post, ACS is sharing what local coffee shops are doing to cope, how you can help, and an idea for coffee shops to implement on a going-forward basis.

What are Atlanta Coffee Shops Doing Currently?

Here are some tangible things that coffee shops around Atlanta have implemented on a going-forward basis (as shared with Atlanta Coffee Shops via a private Google doc):

East Pole Coffee Co.:

  • We reversed our credit card chip reader so customers can self-insert their cards, to reduce physical contact

  • Hourly wipe-down of our iPad screen and Square stand

  • Installing (alcohol-based) hand sanitizer dispensers at entrance/exit of coffee bar

  • We are no longer steeping tea for customers, instead handing them hot water alongside their tea, and giving them instructions to self-steep

Academy Coffee:

  • Hand Sanitizer used after every interaction. Available for customer use as well.

  • Gloves are disposed of after making each drink to limit cross contamination.

  • Extra steps taken to sanitize all services with disinfecting spray.

Bellwood Coffee:

  • Employees washing hands every 30 minutes

  • Hand sanitizer available at condiment bar for guests and at POS for all.

  • Sanitizing all surfaces as frequently as possible, including door handles.

Also, some coffee shops have shared their heightened sanitation/safety procedures and protocols publicly on Instagram (below are a few highlights):

Hodgepodge Coffee:

  • We've removed everything from counters that customers normally have access to including utensils, napkins, fruit, chips, water pitcher, glasses, and lids for all drinks.

  • We will be pouring milk into drip and cold brew for you. Just tell us when.

Refuge Coffee Co.:

  • We have updated necessary training to ensure extra cleanliness and safety for all our customers

Chattahoochee Coffee Co.:

  • Heightened protocols related to hand washing & sanitizing surfaces more frequently.

  • We will not be accepting any personal cups at this time, only mugs & paper cups - to help prevent the spread of germs!

Xander Coffee:

  • No customer mugs are allowed in store

Independent Grounds Cafe (a coffee shop staffed by adults with disabilities; see this feature post):

  • Our special needs employees LOVE to clean so we’ll continue to wipe down tables, counters, chairs, etc. after each use.

  • We’re also happy to deliver drinks to you curbside! Simply call in your order and we’ll meet you at your car.

  • Do you live or work on Mimosa Blvd.? Call in an order and we’ll deliver! Our employees depend on your support of our small business

Brash Coffee:

  • Brash Coffee will keep its locations open, including the one in the Atlanta History Center (even as The Atlanta History Center has announced closure through end of March 2020).

How to Support Your Local Coffee Shops

How can you support your local Atlanta coffee shops in this difficult time? A few ideas ACS has seen and also is thinking about:

  • Continue to support your local coffee shops by visiting them and purchasing coffee/drinks as you would normally do, while practicing social distancing and proper hygiene (wash your hands!) as much as you can (perhaps frequenting a coffee shop in a less busier time of day)

  • Consider calling the coffee shop and/or ordering to-go via platforms like Postmates, etc.

  • Consider purchasing a coffee shop’s merchandise and/or coffee bags if they are offered within the coffee shop or in their online shop

  • Consider buying gift cards if the coffee shops offer them for sale so that you can provide some additional monetary support (see below)

  • Buy prepaid grocery and/or gas cards and drop them off at the harder-hit cafes as a thank you/tips for the baristas/staff (thanks for sharing this idea, Diana)

  • Tip more than you usually would during your visits!

An Idea for Coffee Shops

Here is an idea that may work for coffee shops that are facing a cash crunch with lower sales because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consider selling gift cards (or some other IOUs) now that can be redeemed for a greater amount sometime in the near future. For example, sell a $25 gift card to a customer that will have a $30 redemption value beginning in April 2020, or a $50 gift card that has a $60 redemption beginning a month from today. The purpose is to provide a needed cash infusion to the coffee shops now if they are facing decreased foot traffic and overall sales. (Alternatively, coffee shops can sell gift cards in the denominated value of the card at some discount today; for example, a $25 gift card can be sold for $20 at the register, with the caveat of redemption for some time in the future).

There may be some apps that perhaps have tried to implement this idea…

Another Idea for Coffee Shops

Update 3/16/2020.

Here is another idea for coffee shops to implement, if they are able. Consider the subscription model. If you are a coffee shop that sells coffee beans, merchandise, or other goods—develop a weekly or monthly subscription model where customers can support you. This can involve either delivery of goods by mail or in the case of coffee purchase, pick-up from the brick-and-mortar location.

For example, a monthly $30 subscription model could be used to deliver 3 bags of coffee to the customer’s front door. Or perhaps a $10 weekly subscription model could allow the customer up to 3 coffee drinks for pick-up via to-go counter or drive-through. (If the customers don’t order/pick up their drinks, they are still supporting you with the subscription).

There’s ways to get super creative with subscription models!

A Hybrid Model: Gift Cards + Subscriptions

Update 3/17/2020.

One final idea that coffee shops and restaurants can implement is a hybrid of gift card and subscriptions. The way this can work is that a customer signs up to pay the coffee shop or restaurant monthly (say $10) or annually (say $100), and be entitled to redemptions/purchases within the establishment for some larger sum. In the former case, it could be redeemed for, say, $12 monthly on coffee/food; in the latter case it would be equivalent to, say, $120 redemptions over the course of the year. The hybrid model combines the best of gift cards (pay $X now to receive $Y > $X later) and the subscription model described above.

The hybrid model would allow for additional flexibility and creativity depending on the nature of the coffee shop / restaurant / business, such as one-time perks that customers may be eligible for, announcement of upcoming events, and more. Think of the hybrid model (gift card + subscription) as a way to build up a direct, personal customer relationship over the long-term (it’s like a newsletter on steroids—customers that want to support you in more than just a financial way).

There are so many ways to be creative with the hybrid model too!

Help for Those Working in the Food Service Industry

Update: 3/14/2020.

If you are a barista or work in the food service industry and are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Giving Kitchen announced on March 13:

We will continue to support food service workers with compassion and care by providing financial assistance to those in crisis due to an unexpected illness, injury, death of an immediate family member or housing disaster in Georgia. Food service workers in Georgia who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or those who are under doctor’s orders for a mandatory quarantine should ask for help.

The Atlanta Community Food Bank announced:

The Atlanta Community Food Bank is currently working with a partner network, including local school systems, to assess how to work through the current COVID-19 situation.

You can support by donating to the Atlanta Community Food Bank here.


Any other ideas? Feel free to share in the comments or on Instagram.

Editor’s Note: ACS will update this post with additional feedback as it comes through.