Canadian Vending

Uncategorized Beverages
From the Editor: Apart, Together

August 4, 2020
By Naomi Szeben


This summer has been a challenging one for many businesses, particularly office coffee services and other vending operators.

From issues that ranged from supply chain problems, or gaining access to buildings, COVID-19 has presented a wide range of obstacles. How many offices remained open, and how could a machine be serviced, repaired or re-stocked if social distancing or hygiene was not being maintained? How can an OCS employee maintain proper distance, or ensure that the machines are appropriately disinfected?

Questions about supply were an awkward one: Ben White of NAMA’s Education Centre observed that half-and-half was difficult to come by in the U.S., and many offices resorted to shelf-stable options, ranging from nut or soy-based creamers, to using powdered coffee whiteners. Ensuring that the health and safety of staff and operators was a more challenging problem.

Communication is key to keeping your staff and the people they interact with safe. While it is difficult to rationalize with someone who will not wear a mask, trying to create a plan, or work-around for minimizing exposure to those without PPE is the only way to reduce the rate of infection. In one anecdote that was discussed at NAMA’s “Changing OCS Landscape” round table, one manager had to politely take an employee aside, and talk about why masks and gloves are no longer optional.


Lowther was clear that his employee wasn’t rude, or deliberately selfish, but said that “this was the way he’d always done things.” It took a lot of listening on both sides to finally convince the employee that the way business was done for the last twenty years had changed literally overnight. The key to changing his stubborn staff member’s mind was not through bully tactics, or threatening meetings with HR, but to listen to what his employee had to say, and hear what his objections were.

There will always be some level of non-compliance in any industry. However, this pandemic has presented new problems, and there is little to no precedence in our lifetime to help guide us. During the SARS crisis, we learned that industries needed a crisis plan. Prior to that, the worldwide influenza pandemic was met with full quarantine; something that today’s citizens either ignore or obey until cabin-fever sets in.

This issue is focused on the beverage sector, and ways to recuperate post-COVID. How is your company re-opening, or trying to rebrand? Many companies have downsized, or tried re-inventing their delivery methods. In this issue, you’ll hear about companies that are thriving despite staffing, funding and accessibility issues that the pandemic has wrought.

Jennifer Commins, the CEO of Pluck Teas has used local ingredients for her tea blends, and items that might be considered food waste, at that. She reduces her environmental footprint, keeps local business working, by taking in orange peels from a hotel to use in her citrus blends.

Earth’s Own reports that its range shelf-stable oat milks are saving the OCS industry, by providing dairy-free coffee creamers and ingredients for pantry services. Bonny Koabel provides a great article about the benefits and grants that your company can access to help get your company back in the black.

It is an alarming situation at this point, as many trade shows and expositions have been cancelled or re-scheduled for next year. This contributes to the overall feeling of uncertainty that working in the time of COVID brings. Funding has run out for some, and with it, some hope.

These are the times to redefine your business and determine what your company needs to survive. What do your clients need? Can you provide it? This is a time for self-reflection and exploration of different options for all. Reach out to your clients and ask them how you can help, and what they need to keep going. This is the time when service truly means going beyond to help. We can get through this crisis by banding together. o