It’s rough times. And the service industry is getting hit so hard. Marketing during a crisis always feels a little…off. Some business emails have looked more like virtue signaling. Like, bare minimum, I hope you’re treating your employees well. 

Instead of outright marketing messages, I’m going to list some resources and options for you to keep your business as relevant as possible. 


If you’re still open, here are some options for you:

  • Daily posted signs at door and online regarding any house rules (take out only, condiments behind the counter, etc.)
  • Marked tape on the floor for best customer flow like Quills Coffee did. This also ensures that people are still socially distant.
  • Set up a virtual tip jar NOW if you think that you’ll be affected by the pandemic with closures. If you need examples, here are some @gofundbean.
  • Share how to support your cafe, other local businesses, and the greater community


If you are cutting hours but still keeping staff on, you might be wondering what they can work on. This is the time for professional development. Or a lot of deep cleaning, your pick.

  • Sites like Skillshare and Lynda offer a huge variety of online courses. Everything from mobile photography to social media marketing can be learned here.
  • Moz Academy classes are now free for those of you who want to learn SEO
  • Create your future crisis communication plan. When I wrote that article, I didn’t think to put “global pandemic” into it but yes, I guess we do need to plan for that now.
  • Reexamine your social strategy, brand voice, and general communications.
  • Refresh your content
  • Audit your social media and website

External marketing

Unless you live in a place where the government is managing the outbreak well, it’s probably not business as usual for you. Here are some things you can do:

  • Within a cafe setting, host dropoffs for food, donate them to the local shelters
  • Online, host virtual coffee hours or live Q&As with folks
  • Post about your delivery, handoff, curbside pickup, etc. options. Make sure to remind customers if roasting will be off schedule or continuing as planned.
  • Compile community resources and post about them
  • Post educational materials for your customers. For example, what goes into roasting, how water is so important to brewing, etc.
  • Create mini-workshop videos
  • Create virtual events that are a reflection of your usual physical ones
  • Have different ways for customers to support you
    • Aforementioned virtual tip jars for staff
    • Buy a coffee for a healthcare worker like Andytown is doing. Everyman Espresso is sending coffee to essential workers- you can also sign up if you’re an essential worker. is a local org doing something similar.
    • Virtual gift cards
    • Subscription programs (for roasters, if you don’t have one already)
    • Create more merch (shirts, hats, etc.)
    • “Buy one, donate one” program like Allbirds is doing
    • Olympia Coffee created a Tip Jar coffee and raised $20k for their staff
    • Daily Driver SF created new meal kits to make grilled cheese sandwiches at home. I’ve also seen others make pantry boxes.
    • Lady Falcon Coffee Club started doing free 1-day local deliveries, giving their workers something to do instead of being laid off.
    • Create a website for selling coffee if you don’t already have one. Cropster is offering a free one for their customers.
  • 100% of Standart subs are going to the cafe of your choice (you can also sign up as a cafe)
  • Create a local Coffee Break to stay connected to fellow pros.

We have a tendency to withdraw in times of crisis. One of the reasons why I love being in coffee is the community aspect. I see people supporting each other, businesses posting about relief efforts, and coming together to write political letters. This community will make it through, I’m just worried about what it’ll look like on the other side.

A version of this was sent out in my coffee marketing newsletter. I’ve revised it since to add on more resources and ideas. Updated April 9, 2020