The End of Coffee at Church? Blog Feature
Evan McBroom

By: Evan McBroom on September 21, 2020

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The End of Coffee at Church?

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As churches across the country reopen for in-person gatherings, one question has been percolating in many churchgoers' minds: 

We’re excited to get back to church, but will there be coffee?

Amid a pandemic, some might feel hesitant to ask about coffee, while others have opinions as bold as espresso about coffee being part of their church experience.

Recently, Kaysi Stanley, the Director of Sales and Marketing for HOPE Coffee, joined me on Aspen Group's Facebook Live, "Equipping Frontline Leaders," Monday episode.  Through church partnerships and providing quality Honduran, Guatemalan, and Mexican coffee, Hope Coffee shares the love and message of Christ while helping fund projects focused on providing clean water, education, and safe housing for the poor. During our time, we talked about why church coffee matters and how congregations can keep the carafes flowing.

Here are six tips to help you stay on target with your hospitality goals and health recommendations:

1. Serve with Intention

Is It Safe to Serve Coffee at Church?

Why is coffee such a big part of church culture? Whether at home, work, or church, we associate food and drink with good hospitality. Conversations flow more easily with coffee. It’s a way to put guests at ease and help people experience your church in a multisensory way. Kaysi shares, “It's just a big part of the culture as a whole, so coffee has always been at church. My dad is a pastor, and I remember as a kid, there was always that smell of coffee when you walked into church. When somebody brand new walks into a church—maybe for the first time ever—they don't know how to do church, but they know how to do Starbucks. They know how to drink coffee, and it gives them something to do with their hands. That warm cup is comforting.”

2. Provide a No-Contact Cup

To improve health and safety, especially in light of COVID, consider a process for a no-contact cup of coffee. What is the procedure? Kaysi shares, “That means that the person drinking the coffee does not contact the coffee dispenser.” Instead, form a line with floor markers where people stand six feet apart. Volunteers, wearing a mask and gloves, take a clean disposable cup—not one from home or a used cup—and serve it. According to Kaysi, “The key here is not to hand it to that person directly but to instead set it on the counter. The person drinking the coffee grabs the cup and walks away.”

3. Cream and Sugar Station

What about all of the coffee condiments? We recognize that for some guests, the add-ins can become an art form. According to Kaysi, it’s best to create a separate station for this purpose. Plus, it helps those who drink their coffee black to move through the line more quickly. “We don't want somebody reaching their hand into a big bucket of creamer cups or sugars and getting them out.” Instead, use a separate counter where a volunteer can set out the individual items that people need. Each guest can come to pick up what they will use and then proceed to a nearby trash can, all while social distancing. Include floor markers to help with the traffic flow.

4. Specialty Drinks

If your church typically offers more than regular or decaf, you might be wondering if you should keep it simple or offer the specialty drinks. “It's okay to offer espresso and other kinds of specialty drinks,” says Kaysi. She encourages churches to simply apply the rules for basic coffee: keep the area clean, use a brand new cup each time, all servers/volunteers wear masks and gloves, and guests adhere to line spacing. Finally, “Each time, set the cup on the counter and allow the customer to come and pick it up.”

5. Simple Cafe Payments

Navigating payments can also feel a little tricky. If you can accept cards or Apple Pay, that’s ideal for helping you avoid the exchange of cash. Either way, remember to have a separate person handling payments. Kaysi adds that it’s essential to offer hand sanitizer next to that station for the register attendant as well as the guest. For simplicity, some churches have even opted to keep coffee free during this interim season.

6. Visible Cleanliness

As we return to our buildings, church leaders are considering and communicating cleaning procedures in more extensive ways. As you plan for hospitality involving beverages or food, there is value in visible signs of cleanliness paired with your new procedures. In addition to keeping counters and coffee bar sanitized, ask volunteers to wash tables in between uses. Have hand sanitizers available in multiple areas. “I know that if I walk into a place and I see hand sanitizers out or I see someone cleaning, I relax just a little bit, shares Kaysi. “It’s really important that the people who are walking into your building feel safe, so it's okay for them to see you wiping down a counter. It's okay to have hand sanitizers everywhere because they know you are taking steps to be proactively safe.”

Checklist for COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Volunteers

Kaysi also shared the following list of COVID-19 Safety Procedures from one of their Hope Coffee Shop locations. You may need to customize these items according to your local COVID safety guidelines, but it's a good list of reminders for church cafe managers or coffee and hospitality volunteers to follow before each shift:

      • Customers may sit in our shop up to 50% capacity. Tables must be wiped immediately after customers depart.
      • Be friendly! Some customers may be feeling down. Do not give high fives, hugs, or make any other physical contact. Smiles are safe :)
      • DO NOT touch any of the customer's belongings OR your OWN belongings while on shift (this especially includes your phone!) If you do, wash your hands.
      • DO NOT touch your face, if you do, wash your hands. If you sneeze or cough, do so into your elbow away from equipment/beverages and then wash your hands. If you blow your nose, wash your hands. If you are sick, or even feeling somewhat sick or like you have allergies, do not come to work.
      • DO NOT directly touch their credit cards/cash/punch cards/coupons/etc. Use disposable gloves for handling payment. After processing the transaction, take off the glove so it turns inside out so you are not touching the infected part, and throw away that glove.
      • Spray a dry rag with sanitizer and wipe down the iPad screen/sides/where card is swiped/where you grab it on the side at least THREE times throughout your shift. Do it again before shift change.
      • DO NOT give out "for here" mugs. ALL drinks must be made in disposable cups.
      • DO NOT allow any customer cups/tumblers/mugs behind the counter. If they need water, fill a to-go cup and hand it to them to pour into their own cup themselves.
      • Make sure and put all lids on the cups before handing them to the customer. Do not lay lids on the counter to display latte art.
      • We will not be using the pitcher of hot water with the spoons. Instead, use a new stir stick each time.
      • Wipe down ALL counters (drink prep area, drip coffee area, bar, self-serve bar, register counter, and computer desk) at least THREE throughout your shift. Spray the counters with our green sanitizer every time you do this and use the counter rag. Do not just use the wet rag on its own. Add additional sanitizer. Do at shift change.
      • Sanitize airpot handles/buttons/levers/etc that we touch throughout shifts at least ONCE.
      • Sanitize airpot lever and handles EVERY TIME you put out a new pot.
      • Replace ALL rags at shift change and add the appropriate sanitizers.
      • WASH. YOUR. HANDS. when necessary, and after every couple customers. Wash them for at least 20 seconds while rubbing soap on fronts and backs of hands and in between fingers before rinsing or it doesn't count.
      • Please inform manager if we have less than 2 full gallons of milk. If we do not need more milk, check this off so I know you looked.

About Evan McBroom

Evan McBroom is former Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Aspen Group. He lives with his wife, Debbie, in Lebanon, Tennessee.