Jimmie what’s taking you so long?!? (café update)

Some people have been wondering why our café didn’t open at the beginning of July when the folk in no 10 gave the all-clear, or in the weeks following like many other café’s. Hopefully, you’ll be pleased to know, we will be opening the café, for takeaway only, from this Friday, 7th of August.

We thought it would be good to offer some insight into our thoughts, and explain why we’re not opening more fully.

We need to start with a bit of perspective. Unlike many other small independent café/coffee shop venues, our business is diversified. We have our garden centre and prior to Covid-19 had been working on a plant nursery to grow more of our own stock, and laying the ground work for an ecommerce website. We’d been hoping we might be able to employ more staff this year to help take these projects forward. So when Covid-19 hit we were perhaps better placed than some to weather the storm. We were able to pivot to a mail order & delivery model, with a website following 6 weeks later.

Thanks to our amazing loyal customers, we kept going throughout our busy spring period, bolstered by healthy demand from people enjoying their gardens, so although our costs have risen, that side of the business hasn’t suffered like many others have. We have been able to retain all our staff and expect to be able to continue doing so by re-deploying them to work on our new ventures. We are tremendously grateful for your support, and for their hard work.

Going forward we have difficult decisions to make. We have been giving the situation a lot of thought and we’re sorry to say that it looks as though the café won’t open for dine-in customers in the foreseeable future.

Many cafés who have and will re-open, will be operating at a loss, due to reduced capacity and increased costs from protection measures and reduced economies of scale. Many will decide that this is worth doing, to keep people employed and the lights on, but this will often come with an increase in business debt or reduction in cash reserves (which in most cases will already be depleted). For businesses where the café is the sole revenue stream, they simply don’t have much choice.

Fortunately, we have other revenue streams, and investments already in play, so we have a little more wiggle room. The difficulty with having different strands to the business, however, is competing demands. At this time of year, the café would generate a significant part of our revenue, but it would also generate a disproportionate quantity of our footfall. In normal times that would be wonderful, but today, when we can still only allow a few people in at once, it becomes a problem. Add this to our reading of the regulations, which is that, if a customer who had used the café subsequently tested virus positive, and we were notified by contract tracers, we would be forced to close the whole business. With the lack of space available for social distancing we would need to do make serious investments and reduce the area for plant sales substantially to re-open the café safely and profitably. I hope you can appreciate that the business case just isn’t there for re-opening, as much as we’d love our loyal customers to get their coffee fix.

So that’s where we are, we’re opening as a take-away on Friday. We hope it will be a success, but we really have no idea how much demand there will be. We would appreciate your support, your thoughts and feedback to help us figure out how we can make this work. We’ll be doing take-away 9am until 4pm Monday to Saturday, it’ll be one in – one out of the café to order and re-usable mugs are encouraged*.

We’ve been working hard recently to make progress with our plant nursery & market garden, so that next year we can grow more of our own stock, and produce for the café, in house. Come next year, we hope can offer something just a little more special, when we can finally re-open. We look forward to seeing you, keep cup in hand, on Friday!

* Please clean re-usable mugs prior to arrival. We will ask you to remove the lid and leave it on the counter, enabling us to pour without touching it.

August 05, 2020 — Peter Lay

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