Tandem Coffee Roasters Lowers All Drink Prices To Incentivize Waste Reduction

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Nationally acclaimed Maine coffee roaster now charges 25 cents for single-use compostable cups with an initial goal of saving 30 percent of approximately 120,000 total to-go cups used annually.

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“Charging a fee for a single-use cup will hopefully provide more incentive for people to bring their own. We are doing what we can to help each other to think differently about how we all use and interact with single-use cups and other materials.”

Starting today, customers at Tandem Coffee Roasters’ two locations in Portland will be asked “Do you need a cup?” when ordering a drink. Menu prices at Tandem have officially dropped by 25 cents but if a guest needs a single-use compostable cup for a to-go order, they will be charged 25 cents. Tandem will track how many single-use cups are used through their Point of Sale system over the next year with an initial goal of saving 30 percent of approximately 120,000 total to-go cups used annually. Eventually, the business aims to get rid of single-use cups altogether.

“Since we opened seven years ago, we’ve given 25 cents off when a guest brings their own cup but we never found that to make as much of an impact as we had hoped,” says co-owner Will Pratt, who owns the business with his wife, Kathleen Pratt. “Enough is enough. Time to try something weird.”

In 2018, just over five percent of to-go drinks at Tandem’s locations received the “Own Cup” discount, which was just 7,000 drinks out of 120,000 total to-go drinks sold.

“I think we can do better,” says Pratt. “Charging a fee for a single-use cup will hopefully provide more incentive for people to bring their own. Most people don’t know this but our single-use compostable cups are only compostable if they are composted properly! We are doing what we can to help each other to think differently about how we all use and interact with single-use cups and other materials.”

The entire Tandem team was initially inspired by Portland’s Grocery Bag Ordinance that went into effect April 15, 2015. The ordinance requires stores to charge customers five cents per single-use bag.

“I found the ordinance to be extremely effective. It obviously isn’t about saving 5 cents,” says Will, “But having to answer ‘yes’ to whether or not you need a bag is kind of demoralizing and lead me to fill the back seat of my car with totes bags.”

Tandem is not alone in this initiative. A university in the U.K. saved 34,000 single-use cups in the first year just by asking customers, “Do you need a cup today?” and charging 25 cents. And in late January of this year, the Berkeley City Council in California passed an ordinance that will require food and beverage vendors to charge 25 cents for a disposable cup starting in 2020.

Tandem was bothered early on about the waste the business produced – from cups, lids, plastic wrap, and coffee bags, to other packaging. They have made incremental changes, such as switching to carbon neutral shipping, joining the national movement to eliminate plastic straws, and even installing an electric car charger at the Cafe & Roastery location in the East Bayside neighborhood of Portland.

“We expect to see success come in phases,” says Pratt. “The initial goal is just to get the conversation going and to raise awareness that drinking out of a single-use paper cup day-in and day-out is just strange. Long term we plan to phase them out altogether.”

Tandem will be offering $10 off their Joco Cups designed by local Maine artist, Jenny McGee, and selling all ceramic mugs for $8 now through April 9th.

About Tandem Coffee Roasters
In 2012, after working in coffee in Boston, Martha's Vineyard, San Francisco, and New York, Will and Kathleen Pratt found a home for Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine. They built a cozy cafe and roastery in a 1930s-brick building near their home in the East Bayside neighborhood of Portland. In 2014, they opened a second location in Portland’s West End: Tandem Coffee + Bakery. The bakery is headed up by celebrated baker Briana Holt. Once a gas station then laundromat, the building is now a lively place to sip coffee, eat delicious baked goods, and catch up with friends. Tandem offers a rotating list of single-origin coffees and seasonal blends. They love sourcing at origin and working closely with the same producers, importers and exporters year after year. For more information, visit http://www.tandemcoffee.com or follow the shop on Instagram: @tandemcoffeeroasters.

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Claire Jeffers
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