A community cafe is so much more than a pitstop where people grab a coffee. It is a place where people meet, eat, drink, connect and build stronger community bonds. As such, it can hold a special place in the heart of locals, and give you a really important and visible community role.
But what differentiates a take-it-or-leave-it cafe from one that truly makes a significant community contribution - one that gives the locals more than the grab-and-go coffee they crave, but also becomes the connective tissue of the local community? And how can yours be that cafe?
Make a meaningful contribution
Create a ‘third place’ for people to connect
The 'third place' is a phrase created by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and describes places where people spend time between home (‘first’ place) and work (‘second’ place). They are frequently places where people communicate, enjoy themselves and build relationships and community connections.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had a painful and intense effect on third places, they are now emerging as more important than ever. As office employees expectations around flexibility have risen so has the need for third places.
Create a great third place by being responsive to your community. Think about comfort, accessibility, how people use your space and how you can encourage social behaviours. Steelcase writes that a third-place will have “a home-like feel, the energizing buzz of people, access to good food, an attractive ambience”. Most importantly it allows and encourages a variety of people to come together.
Make sustainability a priority
Sustainability initiatives are a great way to build a strong reputation among today's eco-conscious customers. The environment is something on the mind of most Australians with 6 in 10 of us agreeing that long-term climate change is as profound a crisis as COVID-19.
Align yourself with your eco-conscious community by making sustainability a priority. We’ve written a whole post on how you can positively impact your footprint.
Donate food, meals or profits
Whether it is donating food, cooked meals or a percentage of your profits (see the section below on supporting local causes), there are many ways your venue can give back.
Food and meal donations are one the simplest yet most impactful ways that cafes can contribute to their community. Not only will you be filling the bellies of those that need it most, but you'll also be reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill.
Organisations like Oz Harvest accept anything that's suitable for human consumption as long as it is food safe. This means they'll take fruit and vegetables, meat, cooked meals and prepacked vacuum items, dry goods, cakes and baked goods, drinks, dairy and eggs.
Apps like YWaste Food Donation App, launched in partnership with Foodbank Australia, make donating easy. The app brings together volunteer drivers and food service venues to streamline the process and get donated food directly to the food insecure in local communities. Free and contactless, it makes donations hassle-free.
Support local causes
Making a meaningful contribution to your local community means getting involved at a grassroots level. There are a few ways you can go about it:
Rent out your space for a reduced rate or for free for a fundraiser for your local kid's footy team or animal shelter.
Local sponsorship - from sports teams to charity programs, you'll be able to support a deserving cause and get brand visibility.
Allow staff to take volunteer days for local causes.
The benefits of becoming a more meaningful business
Aside from feeling good, giving back to your community has many benefits for your business:
Boost your reputation and increase customer loyalty - a recent study examined the role of CSR in improving loyalty with a positive connection discovered.
Increase employee engagement and satisfaction and attract new staff (who are aligned with your brand's community focus)
Save dollars - changes like eco-initiatives can make a real difference to your bottom line by saving you money
What's not to love about giving back to your community? So, let's get into how you can enrich your community.
Since you’re here, it’s clearly important to you that your venue makes a positive impact on your community. Choosing a coffee supplier who aligns well with your community-led vision is key. In fact, choosing the right suppliers is important for many reasons. Find out more in our latest ebook Fill Your Cup: How cafe owners can maximise value and work smarter.