Even as governments ease social distancing restrictions, the return of packed restaurants and bustling cafes still seems a long way off. As a result, the industry is looking for new and innovative ways to do business. 

“What is that new coffee model for the new world order, in terms of post-COVID-19, or as we transition out of this phase?” Miles Thomas, head of marketing and customer experience at Australian coffee Single O, told NetSuite’s Tom Hansford in a Zoom interview.

“Cafes and restaurants will have dual models, where they might start to open up a limited amount of dining if they’re allowed to, in a really hygienic way,” he said. “But they’re going to need to continue to find [new] streams of revenue, such as growing their online audiences, or delivering ready meals to homes, or looking at innovative service models.”


Caffeine Kick

Originally named Single Origin Roasters, Single O, founded in 2003, is driven by a passion for delicious, ethically sourced coffee. Along with its original Surry Hills cafe, the Botany-based roaster now boasts a CBD outpost, an onsite coffee stand at the Carriageworks farmers’ market and a roastworks and tasting bar in Tokyo, as well as a thriving wholesale business. 

When social distancing restrictions were introduced, Single O responded quickly, switching its Surry Hills cafe to a takeaway model and adding a “corner store,” where customers could buy staples, like butter, eggs and flour, along with their morning coffee. Furthermore, the Single O chefs started making restaurant quality ready-made meals, vacuum packed for people to enjoy at home.

“[We use] amazing locally-sourced native ingredients and make them really easy for people to access,” Miles said.

Single O also created a new blend to support its customers called the ‘Stimulus!,’ which it released 48 hours before the Australian government revealed its own stimulus package.

“Giving people a caffeine hit and a boost in productivity,” he said. “We wanted to bring something fun to what was, obviously, a really challenging situation”.

The business then launched ‘Kickback,’ a program to help its wholesale customers benefit from Single O’s online sales channel. Cafes earned 30% in coffee credit if their customers ordered directly with Single O.


On the Grind

In addition to changing its business model and supporting its customers during COVID-19, Single O has launched a ready-to-go, single use bag of coffee grounds called ‘Parachutes,’ partnered with new businesses and hosted Instagram brewing masterclasses. Miles has been amazed by what Single O has achieved in a short amount of time. 

“Something that would normally take three months for us to develop, we turned around in 48 hours,” he said. “It’s been shown how much more you get done when things are really on the line.”

The pandemic has forced the business to change and adapt, but Miles is relishing the challenge. “That speed and the necessity has driven that innovation,” he said. “Things tend to have a much longer time frame. But when you’ve got to change your whole business model to survive, that necessity has driven that.”


New Cafe Culture 

Single O is striving to design new customer experiences for the post-COVID-19 world, including rolling out its self-service coffee taps prototype. 

“Go and chat to your cafe staff or barista about where the coffee is coming from,” Miles said. “You can maintain your social distance, you can take your own keep cup and sample a delicious single origin coffee.”

Single O’s culture of innovation has helped it to adapt and react throughout the pandemic. In doing so, the business has learned some valuable lessons, which should mean it’s well placed to succeed, whatever the future holds. 

“The realisation it’s far better to get something out there and learn quickly,” he said. “And not be afraid to put things out in the world and see how they go.” 

Watch the full interview with Hansford where they discuss the joys of single origin coffee, building partnerships, and the importance of collaboration in difficult times. 

To learn more, head to Single O.