Juice Truck co-owner: ‘Frontline workers have been the communicators, have been the public relations of the city’
The pandemic’s devastating effect on small businesses, coupled with the city’s recent introduction of a 25-cent tax on disposable cups, is testing the sanity of employees at a popular juice company of Vancouver.
Zach Berman, co-owner of The Juice Truck, told City Council on Wednesday that staff at his four Vancouver cafes were already tasked with asking restaurant patrons for proof of vaccinations and wearing a mask before having to explain an additional charge of 25 cents. on their drink.
“Additional opportunities for conflict have not been welcome as a frontline team,” Berman said.
“Frontline workers have been the communicators, have been the city’s public relations. The majority of customers don’t understand the changes…and it’s up to us to educate our customers on what the 25 cents are for.
The fees are the first of their kind in Canada and went into effect on January 1.
All food vendors with a business license must charge customers 25 cents when selling a beverage in a disposable cup. The city’s goal is to reduce the number of disposable cups ending up in landfill and to push vendors to add reusable cups and adopt reusable cup sharing programs.
The fee goes directly to the business, but council learned from city staff on Wednesday that the city cannot dictate what that revenue should be spent on, though staff have strongly encouraged vendors to add dishwashers , reusable cups or reusable cup sharing programs.
Berman said his company plans to use the increased revenue for a green initiative – the details of which are still being researched – but said he knows others are treating the cutting fee as a source. revenue to help recoup losses from the pandemic.
“I’ve spoken to probably close to 25 small businesses and beyond ourselves, we’re the only one I know that has put that money into environmental initiatives,” he said.
“Most small businesses are still in survival mode. I can also speak on our behalf. Businesses have not rebounded from COVID. We are always in a state where we are trying to survive. We are not in a place where we thrive.
In an interview Thursday, Berman said he had employees quit during the pandemic due to conflicts with customers over their mental health. The Juice Truck employs approximately 100 people, with additional locations in Burnaby and Steveston.
“Our front desk team never planned to communicate ever-changing regulations and restrictions to guests,” he said, noting that staff have been pushed back by anti-vaxxers during the pandemic.
“It’s a lot for them to take. We have certainly lost good people to mental health issues.
In his opening address to the council, Berman said if the city really wanted to see itself as a green leader, then it should build a facility to process all of the biodegradable plastic cups and packaging used in its business and other places. .
Such a move, he said, would win his support for the 25-cent fee.
A self-described environmentalist, Berman said his company piloted a reusable cup program before the pandemic. But, he said, there were issues with the reusable cup contractor picking up dirty cups from the Juice Truck.
The Juice Truck offers dining cups at some of its locations, but Berman said Vancouver Coastal Health inspectors criticized the company for having a dishwasher in a location too far from the juice bar.
He is not convinced about implementing a company-wide reusable cup sharing program with a contractor, noting that unless the cups are collected by bicycle or electric car, The Juice Truck’s carbon footprint reduction goal would be compromised.
Reusable cup sharing programs are growing
Four city councilors tried on Wednesday to scrap disposable cup fees, but were unsuccessful.
Part of their reasoning was based on Berman’s concerns that reusable cup-sharing programs and businesses were adding customers before the pandemic and have since grown, like Jason Hawkins, co-founder and CEO of Reusables. com, he told the council on Wednesday.
Hawkins said the company has been in operation for more than a year and has more than 50 cafes, restaurants and grocery stores offering reusable products through its takeout and food delivery platform “and we’re rapidly onboarding more.”
Mayor Kennedy Stewart and six councilors opposed the councilor-led decision. Rebecca Bligh to waive the fee, saying it would “essentially diminish the city’s commitment to reducing waste.” He also highlighted the investments already made by many companies to adapt and implement the levy.
In 2018, 82 million single-use cups, 89 million plastic shopping bags and 4 million paper shopping bags were thrown in the trash in Vancouver.