Supporting Independents

Our café is still closed, but we just wanted to take a minute to put a word in for our fellow independent cafés & coffee shops, along with all the other independent hospitality, retail or service businesses that have been affected by the ongoing pandemic. This post is coffee biased, but the sentiment applies more widely.

Although the arrival of Covid-19 and subsequent restrictions have made life difficult for everyone in the business community (and everyone full-stop let’s be honest!), it has been particularly challenging for those in businesses specifically required to close, amongst those, including coffee shops and cafes. Unlike large chains like Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero, independent outlets often just do not have the working capital available to see them through times as tough as these. Government support in the shape of grants and the furlough scheme was welcome and helped, but ongoing support seems to be targeted straight at the big boys, those with market share, and floor space! To qualify for a VAT reduction, you must first pass the VAT threshold, and although many have, the smallest haven’t. For meal vouchers to work (I.e. increase footfall) you are going to need somewhere to put all those extra people. How many excellent independents do you know that have the floor space to sit all the people they would have had pre-pandemic with proper social distancing? No, food vouchers will not help the little guys, but they will help the chains to fill their often oversized locations, milking profits and establishing a yet bigger market share.

So is this a problem? We think so.

Independent businesses are rooted in their communities with owners who often take direct responsibility for the day to day running of the business. They usually live in the community, and are passionate about what they do. Time and time again research shows that significantly more of the money spent in an independent local business will be spent in the local community, benefitting other local businesses and creating more local jobs, whereas excess chain profits seem to often end up in wealthy executives bonuses, in some far flung tax haven.

We’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing…

How can we all help?

Please spend your money wisely. If you’re comfortable going out, please choose to support an independent where you can; you’ll often get better coffee there anyway!

If there’s a queue, why not wait? Please think twice before just heading for the chain instead. How about getting a takeaway, and finding a seat outdoors with a good view? Even better find somewhere that doesn’t have the space to have opened for dine-in, and support them? These are the people who probably really need your help. If you need to stay at home many independents have come up with innovative delivery options too.

There’s also the supply chain. They have seen a huge drop in demand too, and you can support some of them just the same. A thriving quality independent coffee scene relies on the ability to buy good coffee and there are loads of great independent roasters out there supplying independent café’s and restaurants. These independents care about what they produce and where it comes from. They can usually track which farm/s your coffee comes from, and offer ‘single origin’ options (where the coffee is from one farm and not blended with others). This sort of thing helps underpin a fair and equitable coffee trade. Like others, our suppliers Casa Espresso sell retail coffee online You can also shop directly with many of our other suppliers:
The Courtyard Dairy -
Seasons Bakery -
Blue Pig Company -

Love what Rob, Becky & Jimmie pull off in our café? Please help us, by supporting the wider independent coffee industry. Help it bounce back stronger, and keep the chains at bay.

Lastly we’d like to say our hearts go out to all those who have lost, and continue to lose, loved ones, or have been very ill with Covid-19. It’s easy to forget, when running around trying to keep a business afloat, why this is happening. For some, this really is a matter of life and death, so wherever you go to get your coffee, please do it safely and sensibly and follow all the guidelines.

Stay safe, much love,

Everyone at Lay of the Land.

July 13, 2020 — Andrew Lay

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