Coronavirus impact: Boba Guys co-founder re-opens pop-up store with new health standards

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Boba Guys shook up the boba tea scene with they opened one pop-up store in San Francisco in 2011, becoming an instant hit. Known for tea made in small batches using real tea leaves instead of powders, house-made all-natural sweeteners and toppings, and organic milk from Petaluma's Straus Family Creamery, Boba Guys quickly developed a cult following. But last month, with the pandemic and shelter-in-place, Boba Guys had to close all 17 locations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York.

RELATED: SF-based Boba Guys may not be able to reopen all stores after COVID-19 pandemic ends

Recently, Boba Guys took their first step towards coming back by opening just the Hayes Valley branch on Octavia as a pop-up store. Their website says, "We call this pilot, "Boba Guys Express" (or Boba Guys Pop-up 2.0). It's just like old times since we started out as an experimental pop-up in 2011! And just like our pop-up, we "move fast and make things" (like our signs say in stores), so this is going to be a work in progress. We hope the industry can join us in our movement."
Just minutes before re-opening the store Tuesday, founder Andrew Chau joined ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze to give us a tour of their brand new "next level" process designed with health and safety in mind.

For the customer, that means remote ordering from a slimmed-down menu, no walk-ups and a one-minute turnaround. It means a contact-less pick up or delivery, with every cup wiped down and every order tracked as to who prepared it. For the employee, it means wearing PPE at all times and having their temperature taken daily before starting work. Many Asian countries follow this model, including Taiwan, where boba tea was invented and popularized.

Chau says this re-opening has allowed Boba Guys to re-hire 20 of the 400 employees laid off when they shuttered their stores. They hope to re-open more branches under this new model and bring back many more employees in the next few weeks. Boba Guys at 8 Octavia St. is open for now weekdays 12 to 5 p.m.

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