Suspended Coffee is a philanthropic concept that started in Naples, Italy (as “Espresso Sospeso”) and is now a worldwide initiative. Simply put, it gives cafes and takeaway business serving coffee the opportunity to help those in need by offering them coffee and/or other foods like soup and sandwiches, which are funded by existing customers.
Here’s how it works: your customer comes in to buy a coffee (or soup, or sandwich, etc) – but they pay for two. The second coffee is “suspended” – you take the money, but keep the coffee until someone who can’t afford to buy one comes in to ask for a “suspended coffee”, or hands over a voucher from a community help organisation like the Salvos or Vinnies.
Suspended Coffee is taking off in foodservice businesses across the country thanks to Maureen Watts, who runs her own not-for-profit organisation and has a background in sales and marketing. “I heard about the concept a few years ago, then it hit social media earlier this year and I thought, why can’t I make this happen in Australia? So I set up the website (suspendedcoffee.com.au) and Facebook page and emailed out to a heap of coffee shops. Within six minutes I had my first response from a café saying we love it, what do we do?
“It grew organically – the Facebook page got a lot of likes, we’re up to 2,700 now. It’s taking off all over the world but Australia is really embracing it in a big way.
“I’m actually keeping it very simple – I’m just acting as the information conduit for cafes and community organisations who want to get involved. Groups like Vinnies and the Salvos and Red Cross are participating and I’ve also had smaller community groups approach me, asking can I help them out. Because there are a lot of people out there and how can we judge who is and who isn’t in need? I know of one lady who’s a single mum with seven kids, she hasn’t been able to put coffee on the grocery list for the last month – now thanks to Suspended Coffee, she can go into a coffee shop for ten or 15 minutes, have a break and put her feet up. So it’s not just people who might be homeless who are in need. I try to say to people, it’s not about the coffee, it’s about responding to somebody who needs kindness.”
Maureen describes the response from foodservice businesses and the general public alike as fantastic – “it’s really demonstrated to me there are people willing to make a difference. Cafes from all over the country have contacted me, people are asking how they can make it happen in their area. I’m sending out written proposals so people have something tangible they can present to their local coffee shop.
“There’s a real interest in getting involved – and not just from the traditional bricks and mortar businesses, but also mobile coffee vans, even a coffee distributor who wants to support this in the shops they supply has contacted me.”
Much of Maureen’s energies are taken up with promotional support – “we’ve got A4 flyers explaining the concept, we’re running the Facebook page and the website, and I’m currently trying to get a sponsor for instore window stickers. I’m keeping everyone up to date with what’s happening and we’re also using the Facebook page to link back to the Facebook pages of the participating cafes, which helps promote their businesses as well. And we’re compiling a list of all the establishments who are taking part, sorted by area.”
Currently there are participating businesses everywhere throughout Australia except for the Northern Territory and Maureen is hoping to have an NT café onboard soon. For those interested in getting involved, she recommends first visiting suspendedcoffee.com.au.
“There’s a link on there to our Facebook page along with my contact details and a contact form. It’s a lot easier for people to contact me that way because then I have their email address and I can email them with all the information and keep them up to date. And of course I’m very happy to talk through the concept and answer any questions. The important point is it doesn’t cost anything to come on board and make a difference – in fact it’s very easy to do.”