#BennuForYou: Local coffee shop pays it forward for frontline workers and community

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Caffeine and kindness.

Bennu Coffee believes both of those connect the Austin community together.

“We’re just a super community-driven coffee shop. Before we even opened, one of our interview questions was, you know, ‘What is being a community-minded coffee shop mean to you?’ We ask all of our potential hires that,” co-owner Stephanie Williams said.

The coffee shop launched the #BennuForYou delivery and pay-it-forward service last week and its generous gestures have started to catch on.

“You can order and we’ll deliver it for free in the Austin area, and it comes with a little notecard that just lets you know that someone was thinking of you, and it gives you information on how you can pay it forward. So, I think we imagined that maybe people would do this for essential workers and we’ve seen some of that. Like, people paying it forward to temperature takers, or scrub teams at different medical facilities, but also just, you know, pay it forward to a friend who you want to reach out to,” Williams said. “Everybody’s really grateful and really excited to receive these deliveries.”

They’ve also received orders as far away as other big cities in Texas.

“We’ve even had people like from Dallas reach out and say, ‘I’m not in Austin anymor,e but I want to, you know, treat them — the essential workers there. So can I order from Dallas?’ and we’re like, ‘Absolutely.’”

Bennu’s new initiative is part of its pivot to the pandemic.

“Initially this hit us pretty hard, because we are a space for people like to come and gather and experience that sense of community,” Williams said.

A cafe is a community social affair and COVID-19’s social distancing practices have made the local baristas rethink how to do business while serving the community they love. The coffeehouse recently adapted its two locations.

“At our MLK location we opened up a little walk-up window, so we kind of have a completely contactless situation going on there. We added bodega items/essentials. And, at our Congress and Riverside location, we’ve now got curbside so you don’t even need to come in, but if you do come in we have plexiglass up. All of the employees are in masks, so it’s a way for us to still support our staff, still be there for the community, while keeping everybody safe as well,” Williams said. “It’s important for people to still be able to have that little piece of normalcy in their life. So we have seen a good response from our customers still being able to get a little bit of their routine, a little bit of their comfort.”

Each location offers:

But there are also savings for those who keep us safe. Bennu offers 50% off barista-made drinks for essential workers in uniform, which also “extends to scrubs, even if, you know, you’re a FedEx driver or someone that’s doing the important job of delivery things to people,” Williams said.

The caffeine and kindness reciprocated for Bennu.

“We were so deeply affected. There were weeks where we were down 80% and so rolling out this program and seeing a pickup in deliveries and a pickup in sales, it allowed us to hire back at least one employee so far, and that means a lot to us because, really, our staff are incredibly valuable to us. So we appreciate that it’s supporting our staff and allowing us to keep them insured and that kind of thing. And then, of course, we love that we’re able to partner with the community to support those essential workers with this program,” Williams said. “It just feels like even though we can’t hug right now, it feels like kind of a hug from the community when we get this kind of support. We just want to give that back.”

And, Bennu wishes they could hug the entire medical community. They recently partnered with Austin Stone Community Church to provide coffee for healthcare workers at area hospitals. They will give coffee to morning and night shifts with 10 hospitals on rotation.

If you’re looking for your own caffeine fix, curbside pickup is available at both locations. Deliveries are available on orders over $30 and within a 10-mile radius of each coffee shop. Takeout is focused on certain hours of service:

  • Seven days a week, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m (South Congress shop)
  • Seven days a week, 6 a.m. – 7 p.m. (E. MLK shop/ window service)

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