DURHAM – Like many small business owners, Dorian Bolden, owner of Durham’s popular Beyu Caffe is getting hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. But he’s getting creative to stay afloat, and that means using technology to pivot his business.

In the days since the epidemic hit the United States, he has had to shut his doors and transition to takeout service and curbside pick-up on West Main Street.

In the meantime, he’s successfully launched a new online delivery service through his website. He is also planning to roll out a coffee subscription program in the coming weeks.

“Technology has not only saved our business, it has regenerated [it],” said Bolden, who also operates a spin-off concept, Beyu Blue Coffee, at Duke University. “We are using technology to not only remain in communication with customers, to notify them of how we can still serve them, but to setup online operations, and navigate new delivery models we didn’t have in place, or hadn’t even considered, before now.”

Staff at Beyu Blue at Duke University. Credit: Elizabeth Ashley

To accommodate, Bolden has had to temporarily lay off 16 workers and shift some staff members to drivers. This comes as Durham Mayor Steve Schewel issued a stay-at-home order for residents on Wednesday.

“My team and I spoke about this earlier today, and we recognized that our service may play a greater role after [the mayor’s] press conference,” Bolden said. “So we plan to continue as an essential business and utilize our ‘No Touch/No Interaction’ delivery policy.”

At this time, Beyu Café offers its menu for delivery within a specific radius, and for takeout/curbside pick-up from 8am-to 3pm.

Bolden said ordering directly with the café, instead of a third-party delivery services like GrubHub, allows for better quality control and compliance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations regarding takeout.

Dorian Bolden; Credit: Elizabeth Ashley

Next week, the cafe also plans to offer a donation service whereby customers can donate to buying a meal for someone in need.

Its coffee subscription service will also be available where individuals can purchase the café’s signature blend, Heart & Soul, along with tea options.

After recently celebrating the café’s 10-year anniversary, Bolden said he’s doing whatever he can to stay alive.

“Our goal is to get our entire staff back to work within the next three to four weeks, as we continue to rollout new aspects to Beyu Caffe. Our management team has been working like hell, while making personal sacrifices, to make these changes happen behind the scenes so that we can help our squad get back to work.”