A number of Brisbane cafes are temporarily banning reusable cups in reaction to the spread of coronavirus, out of concern that handling the cups could increase transmission of the virus.
Coffee Anthology, John Mills Himself, Bessa, Bunker, Streetlab Specialty Coffee, Anytime, Dovetail on Overend and Pablo & Rusty’s are among the cafes implementing the ban for the safety of their customers and staff. They’re following in the footsteps of larger companies such as McDonald’s and Caltex, which have already introduced the bans this week. There have been similar moves overseas, with Starbucks outlets in the US, the UK and Canada refusing reusable cups for the time being.
“I made the decision yesterday,” says Bunker, Bessa and John Mills Himself owner Marcus Allison. “I was stressing all weekend about putting that [Facebook] post up, just trying to read the sentiment. [But] it’s the right thing to do. We’ve been in the industry for a while and people do tend to look to you for leadership.”
Allison’s cafes are switching to single-use cups for both takeaway and dine-in customers. All three are also providing plenty of hand sanitiser, doing extra clean downs at the end of the day, putting bins in public areas and only offering contactless payment.
“There are no dine-in wares,” Alison says. “If we’re not shaking hands, then how can we be expected to grab people’s used knives and forks and plates and bring them back into the cafe? [It’s impractical] the amount of hand washing we’d need to do on the back of that. It’s about putting a slight barrier between us and the customers and doing anything we can to limit the potential spread.”
Coffee Anthology’s Adam Wang said he and his staff had been considering a temporary halt on reusable cups for a couple of weeks, after they saw on the internet an overseas cafe implementing similar measures. He introduced the ban on Monday morning.
“Hospitality businesses are on the front line of this,” he says. “That’s why we decided to take action on it. If you have to do it, you have to do it. Hopefully this scenario can be resolved and we can get back to reusable cups as soon as possible.”
Coffee Anthology is also doubling down on its cleaning procedures, increasing the space between its tables and running contactless payment only.
“I think customers have been waiting for us to make the call,” Wang says. “Operators were worried people wouldn’t like it. But the customers have been supporting it.”
The move by Brisbane cafes to tackle coronavirus is in step with operators in other cities around Australia.
“It’s just an extra way to protect our staff from contact,” Ainhoa Martínez, co-director of Sydney’s Sample Coffee Roasters, tells Broadsheet. “We’re all for reusable cups, but this is a very special situation. The world is trying whatever it can to stop the transmission of coronavirus. This seems like one of the things we can do to cut transmission.”
“We’re just trying to keep it positive,” Allison says. “This is good for us, our customers and good for the community.”