When I started doing research on the Suspended Coffee Movement I expected to find a lot of information on restaurants and people working together to support those in need, but what I actually found was that this movement has its flaws that causes many restaurants to turn their cheek the other way.
What is the Suspended Coffee Movement?
First, a little background on what the Suspended Coffee Movement is. Based on an Italian goodwill tradition, the idea is to pay it forward with coffee. It sounds simple, but the story goes that a couple of friends were sitting in a coffeehouse and one friend heard a patron say that they’d like to order 5 coffees, 3 of which needed to be suspended. This happens with the next few patrons until a homeless gentleman comes in and asks if there were any suspended coffees, and because people had paid for additional coffees (suspended the coffees), he was able to receive a free cup of coffee.
How could that be bad?
Well, if you’ve ever worked in the restaurant industry in front of house, especially in an area with a high homeless population, you can probably already answer that question. The argument is that the free coffees are actually causing more issues than good.
The baristas and staff that are expected to manage the suspended coffees are already working to do the jobs they are assigned. To then have to keep track of the suspended coffees, including managing the money (if the POS can even do that), would have to be figured out beforehand.
There’s also the issue of keeping the staff honest. Without proper rules and management set-up prior to offering suspended coffees, who’s to say where those coffees go… friends? family? favorite customers? There’s also dishonest patrons that may take advantage of the deal simply because they can.
And loitering (where I suppose was where I was going with the busy homeless population) is another issue. In cold places, like Colorado (and such), keeping homeless people out of seats so paying patrons can have a sit, is always a struggle. Drunk, belligerent vagrants tend to ward patrons away rather than encouraging them to suspend coffees.
But it’s the principal of the movement that we need to keep in mind.
It’s not about the coffee. It’s not about the homeless. It’s not about helping the less fortunate. It’s about helping the world be a better place.
It’s really a simple idea.
It’s about paying it forward: doing something, anything to spread a little human compassion, and encouraging people to pass it on. You could just as easily buy a cup of coffee for a homeless man, as you could just pass him a $10 gift certificate so he could order an entire meal. You could also leave a rather large tip for a waitress that went out of her way to make your day, and maybe that encourages her to do something nice for someone else.
The point is that all of these small things add up to big things. You could continue to look at the world as a big disappointment and hope to get by, or you could look for opportunity to make it a better place.