Just about every industry has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and its lockdowns – some more than others. So, you’d imagine that the sort of businesses which typically serve office-workers and commuters would have been worst hit of all – and yet a new survey shows that independent cafes and coffee shops have been remarkably successful in their fight for survival. This is Hospitality Thrives in Lockdown.
The survey, staged jointly by the Beverage Standards Association (BSA) and the Independent Coffee Guide, reveals how many small cafes and coffee roasters have managed to thrive in lockdown.
“For some it has been resilience, for others it has been pure luck and for many others it has been the support of the landlord, Government and staff,” comments Nick Cooper of the Independent Coffee Guide, which is published by Salt Media, a South West based company.
“Independent cafes and roasters are a vital part of our hospitality economy,” adds Steve Slark, chairman of the BSA. “They provide employment, generate significant tax receipts and importantly provide spaces to reconnect with and revive our pre-pandemic lifestyle. “Now, as the economy begins to open up, we’re starting to see how independent cafes and roasters have survived.”
Location and the style of the outlet has apparently played a huge part in survival. And being small, agile and having a ‘never-say-die attitude’ has been vital for many of the independent businesses.
But resilience and forward planning are two most important watchwords from the survey, according to its authors. Eighty-four percent of the respondents believed that the pandemic had given them the opportunity to build upon their success and look at the future in a positive frame of mind.
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, three times UK barista champion and co-owner of Colonna & Smalls café in Bath, commented: “I think that there’s a return to values. People are thinking about what they believe in and supporting businesses that reflect those beliefs.
“Independent, speciality coffee businesses tend to be run by people passionate about what they do, they tend to be more inclusive and they’re more authentic. We’re finding from conversations with customers that they’re choosing to buy from us and other independent businesses because they see their values reflected in what we do and want to make a positive change.”
Oliver Coysh, owner of The Exploding Bakery in Exeter, added: “How will we plan for the next 12-18 months? Simple! Keep moving forward and hit it hard with offering the best we can on every level, otherwise we should just give up now.”
Michael Jennings from Steep & Filter in Skipton has actually added to his business since the lockdowns… “We expanded into the shop next-door and became an organic grocers and refill store.”
In another example of expansion, Exchange Coffee, based in Clitheroe, relied on an increase in online sales, selling more coffee beans and loose tea.
“You cannot avoid the mental and financial challenges,” observed Steve Slark. “The long-term financial support from the Government and local councils has been important, however, many believe that communication could have been quicker and hopefully will be improved in the future.
“Mental health is a big challenge for many independent business owners, and they have dealt with this in different ways,” he added. “The businesses that have remained open have fared better in many cases and overall people are delighted that they will be able to fully open by the end of June this year.”
Dave Olejnik of Laynes Espresso, Leeds, says: “Location is massively important in the success of the last year of trade and the chances of recovery. We’re city centre based and right outside the train station. The city is empty, and we are reliant on commuters and office workers that no longer exist, especially in the morning. Suburban coffee shops seem to be faring much better.”
Helen, at Bean and Bud in Harrogate, commented: “We’re lucky in that we’re small enough to be able to adapt quickly… We don’t hold a lot of stock, so nothing was wasted, for example. Our staff have been fully consulted on every decision we’ve made which has kept us gelled and sane in these strange times.”
Gary Sutherland, co-owner of Archive Coffee at the Old Library in Kirkwall adds: “Although the pandemic has knocked us back on where we would have hoped to be, this won’t stop us to continue to look forward and try and take positives from a bad situation.”
But perhaps the thoughts of Aimee, from The Drip in Edinburgh, sums up the mood across the industry when making a call to consumers… “Support your local businesses – we appreciate it way more than you can imagine!”