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Alfred brews up solutions to keep coffee, matcha in hands of Angelenos

The California-based coffee chain Alfred created a subscription-based program so customers can indulge in both coffee and less-caffeinated drinks like matcha. To adapt to the ongoing pandemic, Alfred offers contactless pick-up of its products.(Lauren Man/Daily Bruin)

By Yasmin Madjidi

May 15, 2020 5:01 pm

Time might not exist in quarantine, but Alfred’s iced vanilla latte does.

Alfred, a local coffee shop with 10 locations across Los Angeles, has reopened its doors for contactless pick-up and created a delivery subscription program for its coffee beans and matcha tea tins. Customers can decide how many bags they want delivered on either a one, two or four week basis. Alfred also created a fundraising campaign to support UCLA Health’s COVID-19 Coronavirus Patient Care Fund, in which the business will donate 100% of the proceeds made from its “I’m a Friend of Alfred” hoodies. The company’s business development manager, Natalie Swain, said despite an initial push to only offer subscription-based coffee, the company added matcha to meet the market’s demand for slightly less caffeinated drinks.

“My hypothesis is that I think people do not want to be as caffeinated at home,” Swain said. “Maybe they might want to have some caffeine, but they don’t need that crazy boost.”

[Related: Class on coffee blends in chemical engineering concepts]

The production of Alfred’s app and subscription program aligned with the start of California’s stay-at-home orders, and Swain said the business launched its mobile app within a week of its stores closing to streamline customer experience. The app allows customers to order food or drinks ahead of time and pick it up at the store, with Alfred’s locations rearranging its patios to only serve customers outside. Swain said the app is an effort to adjust to the new normal as people are slowly getting some of their pre-pandemic lives back – starting with coffee.

Additionally, Swain said the company now has a subscription program for its drip coffee, espresso coffee and matcha tins. She said that the subscription service – paired with Alfred’s increased social media presence – allows customers to bring the brick and mortar Alfred experience into their homes. Instead of focusing on the trendy aesthetic of the stores, Swain said the social media team began posting tutorials for its matcha and cold brews, making their drinks accessible from anywhere.

“(Our social media strategy) flipped the script,” Swain said. “We wanted to share with our customers what they could experience at the store, and now we are trying to help them experience Alfred at home.”

Despite missing the interactions fostered in Alfred’s shops, brand director Michelle Zad said the company engages with customers through social media to keep the same energy alive. She said new coffee blends, such as the Chagaccino Blend, are now online, and customers are encouraged to share pictures of their drinks on social media.

[Related: Coffee Cultured: A taste of the LA coffee scene]

Alfred has also embraced social media in order to advertise its “I’m a Friend of Alfred” hoodies through Instagram stories and posts. Being a local company, Zad said Alfred chose to donate the proceeds to UCLA Health because they wanted to give back to an organization that directly cares for patients with COVID-19 in the Los Angeles area.

“We really wanted to do something because we pride ourselves on the community that we make within Alfred,” Zad said. “We are really happy to be able to help and do something for our community, and give back during these hard times.”

Adapting to the pandemic, Jordan Hardin, Alfred’s food and beverage director, said the company originally closed its cafes for two weeks, but still paid its employees during that time. Alfred’s stores reopened as an essential business with new signage outlining their new policies that all employees are required to wear face coverings and gloves, customers must wear masks and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from one another, Hardin said.

Additionally, Hardin said the company switched back to flat lids with a straw slot to minimize any extra contact with the beverage. He said he is expecting customers to be more conscious of the cleanliness of their cafes, so the company will continue its increased sanitizing regulations post-pandemic.

“We have very high volume cafes,” Hardin said. “I think the carryover will be cleaning high-use and high-risk areas much more frequently.”

Unsure of when Alfred will be allowed to fully reopen, Swain said the staff has been focusing on the constantly changing present situation. She said the smaller size of the company allows it to stay proactive and adapt as its design team makes new signage as cheerful as possible while still carrying important information. With positive reception from customers, Swain said Alfred is ready to provide coffee again despite the circumstances.

“A lot of those daily rituals we have have been more or less put on hold,” Swain said. “When coffee was put back on the table, people really gravitated toward that opportunity.”

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Yasmin Madjidi
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