27 July 2020, 11:24 AM
  • Dealing with the effects of Covid-19 has been a challenge for many businesses, and while some shops and cafés have been forced to close there are those that have taken the plunge and opened up during these tough times. Two businesses tell us what it takes to open during a pandemic.
What it takes to open during a pandemic

Battling uncertainty
Uncertainty is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to opening up a new business at any time, but during Covid-19 it has been a main source of concern. With social distancing measures in place and the country still in lockdown, anticipating response from the community can be difficult. Construction for the Blue Garden Café in Clacton-on-Sea started back in spring 2019, with the doors opening this month. Head chef Henry Smith said that one of the main challenges was predicting footfall; “When we sat down to write up a business plan that estimated footfall and customer spend in our new venture we felt that Brexit made this task quite a challenge. Then along came Covid which made second-guessing Brexit look easy. When we did finally get open on 4th July it really was a matter of opening the doors to see who, if anyone, might turn up. Fortunately people did turn up but we still feel we are having to learn as we go.

“We know that this year won’t be a ‘normal’ baseline from which to develop our business into the future and we’re not certain what percentage of our potential customer base are avoiding eating out because of Covid. On the plus side the VAT reduction and the 50% off scheme have given us a boost, as we are able to offer consumers a better deal. We are also lucky in having plenty of space inside and out, so we can offer customers plenty of distancing.”

Pivoting the business strategy
The pandemic forced many businesses to make alternative plans while riding out the storm. From setting up online to home deliveries to complete 180 degree changes, businesses have done what is necessary to keep going. Exeter-based family-run vegan deli How on Earth was no exception. Everything was set up, stock was in place and it was ready to open, and then lockdown came into force. Mother and daughter co-owners Heidi and Chloe Howarth created the recipes for the deli, which include sandwiches and wraps, as well as stocking vegan cheeses and bakery goods from local makers. Heidi says, “We had to think fast and being a family team we were able to just pause, change direction and fall back to home deliveries. We are now open and the first two weeks in the deli have been wonderful. All the customers we delivered to have been in and many more new ones. We are a great team and loving sharing our passion for plant-based living.”

Looking to the positives
While fears and worries about opening up shop have been heightened by the pandemic, looking for the positives and staying focused on the goals are part of the key to success. Henry says, “While we operate in the shadow of Covid and the economic downturn it will bring we must look to the positives. We have a steely determination to play to our strengths, with a focus on using local suppliers, maximising the use of our ample outdoor seating/garden area and remaining flexible so that we can adapt as we go. If we can meet the challenges of this year we will be in good shape for 2021.”

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