The owners of Rosetta café hope a new website enabling them to sell vouchers online to be redeemed once lockdown ends will be their lifeline through a tough period. Photo: Supplied

David Downs – who doesn’t even drink coffee – explains his plan to ensure some favorite cafés are still around when we emerge from lockdown

Are you already sick of instant coffee, and missing your morning brew? Well, while you may have to suffer barista-withdrawal symptoms for a few more weeks, moves are afoot to make sure that when we all emerge from our isolation, our steaming hot cappuccinos are still there.

The website hopes to ensure that cafés, restaurants and other small businesses can stay around long enough to serve you your morning coffee after the Covid-19 crisis.

SOS Cafe allows you to buy a voucher from your favourite little spot for a future visit, and that means they’ll get the cash now, when they need it most.

Over 40 cafés, restaurants, bars (and even a barber shop) have registered themselves on the site, and it’s open for anyone to join – even if they don’t have websites or internet sales themselves.

Even though I don’t drink coffee, I set the site up while hearing the Prime Minister announce the Level 4 shutdown. I was involved in the hospitality industry in the distant past and know how important cashflow is to these small businesses. I wanted a way for any business who doesn’t sell online to at least be able to sell a voucher for a future service.

Two days in and the word was getting out – new cafes were signing up from all around the country, and well over $1,000 of orders had come in.

The cashflow provided by this website may mean the difference between being able to pay the rent or having to shut for good for some businesses.

Letitia and Ashley Thomas only recently bought their café Rosetta, on the Kapiti coast, and so were delighted to hear they could sell vouchers online, giving their business a lifeline through a tough period.

“The virus & the lockdown have hit our cafe really hard which has caused for a very testing and tear filled week. I love this idea, I’ve shared it with my family, friends and on our community pages in an effort to have as many of our local cafes and restaurants sign up to it”, said Letitia.

Buying a voucher from a café like Rosetta is ‘paying it forward’ – you’ll be emailed a receipt which you can take to the café when we are all set free again, and they’ll happily fulfil it – they may even give you an extra marshmallow on the side to say thanks.

All the money raised from the venture goes to the cafés (apart from the credit card fees – and I am working on that) so people can truly support their local favourites.

*David Downs is a technology industry executive and author working for MBIE. He is also the chair of the Well Foundation, which is the official charity supporting Waitemata District Health Board.  

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