How to diversify your cheese business in a pandemic

01 March 2021, 08:36 AM
  • To create a secure future for hardworking artisan producers, cheesemongers have had to adapt, James Grant of No 2 Pound Street tells Speciality Food
How to diversify your cheese business in a pandemic

2020 has changed lives, it has changed communities, it has shaken artisan food and retail like never before.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has created an uncertain landscape for millions of British small businesses. With the Government calling time in March 2020, we had to make a decision. Close for the foreseeable future or diversify.

So my wife and I chose the latter; we immediately removed all tables and chairs from the shop – no more tastings, coffee, wine, platters – instantly losing the revenue from all those seats. We kept two staff, putting the rest on furlough and switched up to a retail operation – serving customers through a hatch in the front door.

We created overnight the lifeline of a home delivery service to support a community in need. Every day we fought a 20-hour battle to survive and keep our business operating. Huge thanks to our loyal customers (old and new) and to the army of volunteers who leapt to the cause.

Since the pandemic there has been little time for reflection, but we know the battle is not over. We all need to protect our businesses, the people we employ and the small hardworking artisan producers from whom we buy our cheese and furthermore to create a secure future.

During 2020/21 our lifesaver was the development of our website and its offering. This is an element of our business that was never really given much time or energy. Having seen the positive impact the alterations have now made, we realise the importance of this revenue stream.

We have seen a change in people’s buying habits and our online shop has been a huge success. By simply increasing the speed of the website and its ease of use and the product placement, it only benefits the bottom line.

Covid-19 has changed the way people shop, and online is a great way to help keep sales buoyant. We have also been running Zoom training and tasting sessions since the beginning of Covid-19. These have proven immensely popular. Our first accredited Academy of Cheese Associate course has already sold out. The tastings and training sessions have provided those isolating some comfort and a little bit of fun whilst enduring this pandemic.

There are plenty of ways to diversify your business. We believe supporting and promoting small and passionate producers is vital to our future. Using social media, Zoom, Teams, etc to taste and promote albeit online has helped us pull through to 2021.

I met Jamie Montgomery last year and his words were, “Through all the lessons that Covid has taught us whilst running our businesses, it has clearly shown us that people have gotten a taste for real cheese”.

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