Bean to Cup café owner Kunal Chander disinfects the debit machine as part of his Vernon business’s COVID-19 precautionary plan. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon café scrubbing down amid coronavirus concerns

Bean to Cup owner Kunal Chander has taken extra precautions in the uncertain world of COVID-19

With the spread of the COVID-19, businesses in the Okanagan and beyond face an uncertain future. But one Vernon coffee shop is taking matters into its own hands by keeping the hands of its customers as clean as possible.

Bean to Cup has stepped up its cleaning routine to ensure that easily overlooked shop items are disinfected at the beginning and end of every shift.

Owner Kunal Chander met with his staff earlier this week to devise a checklist of items that need regular cleaning. Milk jugs, door handles, light switches, loyalty card stamps, debit machines — practically any item with a solid surface has made it onto the cleaning list.

“There’s maybe 100 people that come through here in a day,” Chander said. “People have been asking us if we’ve been doing that cleaning too, so it feels good to tell them that’s what’s going on.”

The café’s Bitcoin machine is getting frequent hydrogen peroxide scrubs. With Bitcoin prices taking a significant hit this week, Chander said he’s not taking any chances.

“That market is all of a sudden doing its thing. People are coming here wanting to use that, and that’s a unique demographic too because they’re driving here from different areas.”

Bean to Cup has also put a pause on accepting personal travel mugs but will maintain its customer discount for those who bring one in.

“We offer a discount if you bring in your own mug, so we’ll still honour that discount.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

As Chander greets customers, he does so with a closed fist-bump — a change that may appear small, but is, in fact, the biggest noticeable difference in a business that prides itself on its relationship with customers.

“We’re a cultured cafe where we like to communicate by physically touching,” Chander explained. “It’s just like how you would treat your families, you hug each other when they come into the house, or high-fives with your buddies.”

“That’s all of a sudden something that’s non-existent in our business now… It’s kind of making our image different than what we’ve worked our whole life to create.”

Illustrating the difference in atmosphere, a longstanding customer came in during the afternoon coffee rush on Friday, March 13. No handshake or friendly embrace; instead, a light knuckle tap.

“See, normally me and Mike, we’re hugging,” Chander said. “This is my bro who’s been here since day one.”

Handshaking is a sacrifice Chander is willing to make to ensure customers can feel safe during their coffee run — and for those still uneasy about spending time in public spaces, Bean to Cup has started making deliveries.

We’ve reached out to car dealerships, places that have staff who are worried about their environments, so we can bring them food,” Chander said. “We’ve reached out to five or six dealerships just today.”

Chander knows if the pandemic continues its spread and Vernon becomes subject to a shut-down in some form or another, business will be affected and his staff will lose shifts. Chander is also looking ahead to potential disruptions in the supply chain that could affect the supply of coffee beans.

But for now, Bean to Cup is focused on the things it can control, such as instilling a workplace culture of cleanliness and respectful distancing.

“It just has to be taken seriously, and the staff are looking at what the leadership part of the workplace is doing,” Chander said.

READ MORE: Vernon schools cancel spring break trips amid COVID-19

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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