Warm smiles and hot coffees: the vital community role cafes play

Brodie McDonald’s daughter does weekend shifts at his cafe, Seabreeze. He is not the only proud parent in the community of the cafe. “We now have a generation of local children working there,” he says, which is also a solid business proposition.

“It helps maintain a community atmosphere, and parents visit to see their children at work.”

After three years of disruption caused by Covid, the communities on which local cafes depend have changed in some locations. As a result of financial strain, many hospitality businesses have been forced to reduce their hours or services, or even close. For those within the industry, however, this has only served to increase their value.

Natalie Guest, manager of Coffee Supreme in Auckland, asserts, “Name a good suburb without a great local.” “We get so hung up on the type of oat milk to drink or the edible flowers on the cakes, but what we really need is a place where you can meet a friend and feel safe.”

Financially devastating lockdowns have been for those in the hospitality industry, whose profit margins are frequently razor-thin. However, this has also hampered a cafe’s ability to serve as a third place where people from the same community can meet and gain insight into the lives of others.

Dan Shaw, who co-owns the Good Day cafe in rkei with Jacqui Crichton, has witnessed this. “It goes without saying that you must provide good food and coffee, but creating a place that is welcoming and community-oriented is what makes work interesting.” He enjoys chatting with his regulars about their families and golf scores in his cafe.

What’s better, however, is watching people make friends at the cafe without his help. During his time behind the counter, he has even observed a few patterns: “Dog people connect extremely easily,” he observes. “Or parents – individuals with a similar routine. It’s a pleasure to observe.”

In order for Shaw to be a successful business owner, he must create a company that values and cultivates relationships within his community. “Having relationships and fostering a sense of community improves the business,” he says.

And throughout the pandemic’s trials and tribulations, it was this community that helped Good Day weather the storm. “The margins are tight, but I feel honored and privileged that the support of our community has kept us relatively unscathed.”

McDonald asserts that the ritual of coffee and the daily practice of drinking it contribute to the formation of these connections. He states, “People want their morning coffee.” “However, knowing that you might run into a familiar face and strike up a conversation also encourages you to return.” Coffee is a relatively inexpensive invitation to sit down, linger, and appreciate where you are and who you’re with.

Read more • thespinoff.co.nz

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