By Dana MacDonald 

Rôticana is a unique company, not only in their approach to production, but in their emphasis on coffee as part of a social landscape. Supplying small-batch blends and equipment to local businesses like Cafe Loka, Rôticana has directed their passion for fostering community towards public health initiatives during the coronavirus epidemic. Mohamed Khirallah, founder and GM of Rôticana, has always strived to “be part of the community and support local efforts”, and saw an opportunity to do just that during the epidemic.  

And so, with a dash of humor and their usual attention to detail, Rôticana released their limited edition “Coffid-19” blend. Available online, one-hundred percent of the Coffid-19 blend’s sales went to Chalmer’s Giving Hearts: A COVID-19 Support Fund where the proceeds helped purchase lifesaving equipment and virtually reconnect patients with families. It might seem staggering for any business to pass up revenue in such lean times, but, Khirallah explains to me, “Coffid-19 was made, not to support our business, but to support the Chalmers Foundation”, plain and simple.  

Khirallah, who is also the founder and CEO of Dubai and Fredericton’s True Vision Designs, is no stranger to the challenges of an ever-changing market, but he still felt the impact of COVID on his respective businesses. When asked about the process of changing operations to fit a mid-epidemic world, he replies, “Everything is challenging”. Changes to health guidelines meant an exodus of people leaving offices and restaurants behind, resulting in a dip in Rôticana’s sales. However, Khirallah explains, “…the good news is that people are using online ordering”.  

It would become apparent that Coffid-19, an online exclusive, was attracting buyers to the fundraiser, but also causing an upswing in site traffic. As popularity grew, Rôticana observed that when consumers purchased Coffid-19, they would often pick up other Rôticana blends from the online store at the same time. In short, a blend that was intended solely as a fundraiser had the side effect of giving business a mid-epidemic boost.  

When asked if he’s seen changes that he’d like to see stick around after the epidemic, Mohamed mentioned that he’s observed more flexibility in return policies and that customers are less apt to be thrown off by delivery delays, two mentality shifts that he believes contribute to a better online shopping experience. When the option for a physical store falls away, customers lose the ability to immerse themselves in the purchasing process, he says, “…they don’t experience the smells, they can’t hold the product in their hands before buying”. There are pros and cons to the increased reliance on online shopping during COVID-19, but, Khirallah continues, “After a good online shopping experience, these customers come back”. By streamlining delivery, and returns, businesses can foster a community of online customers who will return time and again.

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