Andrew McWilliam, co-owner and manager of Ratio Coffee & Pastry, was quick to adapt amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 
(Carole Fawcett - Contributed)

Andrew McWilliam, co-owner and manager of Ratio Coffee & Pastry, was quick to adapt amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Carole Fawcett - Contributed)

Behind the Mask: Vaccinated and caffeinated

Vernon’s Ratio Coffee & Pastry quick to adapt to pandemic hurdles

As we can only imagine, the pandemic has been a huge challenge to anyone whose livelihood is dependent upon others using their services.

Coffee shops and restaurants have been hit hard, forcing some to close. Most of these are family-run businesses and the pandemic has made it impossible to survive for some.

In today’s world, a business owner must have creative problem-solving skills in order to succeed.

Ratio co-owner and manager Andrew McWilliam exemplifies this, and is the reason Ratio has managed to survive throughout the pandemic.

When COVID-19 first started, McWilliam and his family were away on a spring break. They cut their trip short and returned to Vernon.

He said his initial reaction was one of panic and he wondered how he would keep the restaurant going.

Fortunately, just prior to COVID, he had created an online ordering system. So, he was able to switch to take out (to go) only.

He switched, he said, “because we were watching the trends around the world. Cafés in Tokyo and the U.S. were switching to to-go only at the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve since switched back to ceramic cups and to-go options.”

At the very beginning of COVID, McWilliam looked into how restaurants in San Francisco were coping as they were experiencing much higher numbers of cases.

He saw that they were using plexiglass barriers, so he arranged to have those installed at Ratio and was one of the first in Vernon to do so.

In compliance with provincial guidelines, he changed the seating and how they served people.

He rented a huge tent cover and created socially distanced seating outdoors when they were not able to serve customers indoors.

Pre-orders were taken and then his customers could sit comfortably outdoors. He also made masks mandatory before the province made the ruling.

He also noticed that people started to bake at home. Restaurant suppliers had an abundance as restaurants were shutting down, so McWilliam started selling groceries.

He sold yeast, eggs, flour and butter to customers as they were finding these things sold out in the regular grocery stores. They offered their pizzas on both Friday and Saturday but have since returned to Fridays only.

He says there is still occasionally an anti-masker who is intent on telling them why they don’t need to wear a mask or have the COVID vaccine.

He asks them to leave and offers to serve them outside if they like. A police escort was required in one incident.

McWilliam likes to create a positive atmosphere at the restaurant and knows that with some customers it may be their only social contact for the day.

The province created a “COVID opportunity” allowing restaurants to offer liquor from local breweries with their order. So, this establishment also offers that too.

While the plexiglass barriers have been removed, McWilliam says he is ready to comply if that should change.“As per provincial regulations, we are asking that if people aren’t fully vaccinated that they continue to wear masks,” he said.

“Our tables are socially distanced and we do ask that people still distance in line.”

The coffee shop also sells pins that say “vaccinated and caffeinated” strongly supporting the COVID-19 vaccine. He speaks highly of his staff, saying it has been a trying time for them. He did manage to keep his staff, except for a very few very part-time people.

Interior Health is hosting a pop-up vaccine clinic at Ratio on Friday, Aug. 20, so go on down and get yours.

Be safe – be one of the vaccinated (and caffeinated) crowd.

Carole Fawcett is a freelance writer, counsellor, clinical hypnotherapist.