A website has been set up to pay it forward to your local hospitality businesses by buying vouchers online in the hope of keeping them afloat once lockdown has been lifted.

SOS Cafe was set up by David Downs following Monday's lockdown announcement.

Through the site people can buy vouchers or gift cards for their local cafe and restaurant, which can be redeemed at a later date, 'when this is all over'.

"Like everyone, I felt shocked and a bit helpless the other day when it was announced that we were in level four lockdown, and thought about the hundreds of cafes and small businesses who would suffer," David said.


"I have a bit of an IT background so quickly whipped up a website that will allow cafes who don't have the ability to take vouchers a way to still do that."

David Downs has set up SOS Cafe, a pay it forward voucher site to help struggling hospitality businesses.
David Downs has set up SOS Cafe, a pay it forward voucher site to help struggling hospitality businesses.

Wherever you are in New Zealand, the idea is to support your local cafe where you used to buy your daily coffee and muffin from.

If you're in a position to help, it may help them survive through this tough time.

"Buy a voucher for a future visit, and give them the cash they need now."

Consider 'buying' your daily coffee, or having that weekly night out at a restaurant - paying now and getting later.

"Many customers are loyal to their local coffee shop or restaurant/bar and want to help - give your local cafe a fighting chance."

One of the first Kāpiti businesses to sign up is Rosetta Café in Raumati South.

"I signed up straight away as soon as I heard about it and after having a look over the site's intentions and idea," said Letitia Thomas who owns Rosetta Café with her husband Ashley Thomas.


"The virus and the lockdown have hit our cafe really hard which has caused for a very testing and tear-filled week.

"The best thing is to remain as positive as possible and look to the future about what we can do when we do open up again."

Pay for your coffee now, get it after lockdown. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Pay for your coffee now, get it after lockdown. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Vouchers are valid for a year from date of purchase or six months after we 'return to normal'.

All the money excluding credit card fees goes straight to the cafes, but there is a risk.

David said that given none of us can predict the future, if the business is not able to reopen, that is the risk you take when buying a voucher, no refunds will be given.

"Think of this as trying to increase the odds of their survival," he said.


Purchasing the cafe in January 2019, the cafe has been Letitia and Ashley's 'baby' ever since.

"I've worked in it every day, from learning to baking, to make coffee, I even became our chef for a few months," Letitia said.

"It's been a real adventure and my heart is truly in the cafe which makes it that much more heart-breaking that we may not get through these tough times - but hopefully we will."

With a team of 14 staff, rent and suppliers to pay, being a small business is not easy.

"All small business owners know there's not much in it - we work where we do, and we do what we do because we love it."

"I've had a family member and a friend of mine already say they've purchased vouchers which is exciting and heart-warming to hear."


The website is hosted by Squarespace, and payments go through Stripe, which means no credit card details are held by David.

Visit SOS Cafe to buy vouchers and email David Downs at cafe@soscafe.nz to sign up your hospitality business.