In the Before Times, a high-end coffee experience was a major perk of working at a big company—single-origin beans, a pourover station, even a commercial-grade espresso machine. Now that many employees work hybrid or remote jobs, are the days of great corporate coffee numbered?
Not for Afugã Coffee. The Austin, Texas-based company, led by husband-and-wife owners Alin and Roee Erenshteyn, specialized in corporate events before the pandemic shut down offices across the country. Like many smart food and beverage businesses, they pivoted, building a new model to meet people where they are.
Read on to learn how the Erenshteyns are reimagining the office coffee experience.
Three businesses, one umbrella
Afugã began as a mobile coffee and espresso bar, available for private and corporate events, including weddings and conventions. When Covid hit, the event business stopped suddenly, and the Erenshteyns got creative. They created Afugã in a Box, shipping boxes of their product all over the United States from an online store. Boxes are curated by sentiment (Thank You Box, Good Luck Box), brewing method (Moka Box), or occasion (Spring Is in the Air), and they’re full of products that Alin and Roee feel passionate about.
“We feature all local and small businesses, and everything is handcrafted—most of the items can’t be found in other stores,” Alin says. “If it’s really good and unique, I’ll find a way to create a box to fit the product.”
Their best customers are still corporate clients, who send gifts to their teams spread out from coast to coast. It might be a one-time thank you for a goal achieved, or a repeat experience that ships every holiday.
Today, events are starting back up, and Afugã is also planning to open its first brick-and-mortar shop in Austin. “We’re doing it all, basically,” says Alin. “It’s a business that has different parts, but it’s all connected to coffee and special, unique items.”
The virtual coffee break
In an office, coffee is a ritual that people can relax and bond over. That doesn’t have to change simply because employees are spread out in different places.
With Afugã, company leaders might book employees an online workshop and send a box along the same theme—for example, how to make a cold brew, plus everything they need to pull it off at home. Alin says teams attend Zoom meetings that continue into workshops and coffee breaks.
“Employees in California, Texas, and other places all get the same box and do the same workshop,” she explains. “You can combine people that work from different places. Even as people go back to work, it’s still nice to get things to your house,” she adds.
Building relationships that last
Although Afugã’s business model has evolved, they’ve been able to retain the same corporate customers, from in-person events to boxes. In the beginning, they built connections through the mobile coffee bar. Those same clients supported Afugã by buying boxes for employees.
“We see companies that started with events and want to continue with us, which is nice to see,” says Alin. “Now we have all kinds of employee experiences. Companies reach out to us and want us to take on a project.”
By offering more opportunities to engage with Afugã, the Erenshteyns generate significant repeat business. They also gain private customers from corporate experiences. One time, Afugã shipped boxes for a company and received new orders from employees the same day.
Says Alin, “For us, the best feedback is to see when employees get a box from their company and come back as an individual client or buy a gift for someone else.”
Product comes first
When it comes to curating a box, the Erenshteyns start with products they love. For Alin, that comes easily—she’s constantly searching for the best places to eat (including ones that are far away or under the radar), and discovering new specialties.
The Afugã team also creates personal relationships with the companies they work with, so they’re in the know about new items. When customers love a specific product, they seek out more like it. And along the way, they’ve learned how to ship food, coffee, and tools so that they don’t break or melt.