Q & A with leading Coffee House, Jess & the beanstalk

How was business before the pandemic hit?

Before the pandemic, business was good and steady for that time of year. We were seeing growth on sales from the same time in the previous year and revenue was going as projected. As restrictions slowly started coming into place and it became clear that a lockdown was looming, our customers continued to come in their droves and make the most of the freedoms while they had it. So much so, that we made the decision to close the shop before the Government announced the compulsory closure. As much as it was great for business having increased sales, our business model means that babies and grandparents alike will congregate in our shop to make use of our play area and community atmosphere which we felt was heightening the risk of transmission within our premises at that time.

Has the pandemic affected your business? If so, how?

The pandemic has expectedly affected our business but not in a negative way. We initially closed in line with Government lockdown rules in March 2020 and we reopened on June 1st as a takeaway and home delivery via UberEATS. I wasn’t sure how this would work as our business model is focused on the experience of the customer sitting in with us and making use of the play area and connecting with others in the local community. In the first month as lockdown was still in place, the sales were down by 10% which I found a pleasant surprise given the current climate and news of doom and gloom from the media. In July, along with the rest of hospitality, we opened our seating area and eventually play area too. Every month since then until this present month, we have outperformed the same month in the previous year. We have gained a whole new group of local customers who are now working from home for the foreseeable and have come to know our staff and offering even on a takeaway basis. Our residential location has meant that our customers have relied on us being open and they have supported us hugely every step of the way. We implemented a ‘pay it forward board’ by which customers could buy a coffee for a stranger and write a lovely encouraging note on a post it and pin it to the board. A stranger can then simply bring the post it to the till to redeem it and then ‘pay forward’ the act of kindness in some other way throughout their day. This was hugely popular and actually went on to support the local foodbank with customers buying and donating lunchboxes to local children in need over the half term and lockdown. The love and support of community is everything.

What safety measures have you implemented to ensure you are Covid safe?

We have moved our card machine to the front of the store so both eat in and takeaway customers can order and pay on arrival which allows us to keep the area clear whilst getting food and drinks ready. Each table is 2m apart. We have hand sanitiser at the entrance and a bottle on each table. We clean the toilets after every use and staff are trained to this affect. We always wear JATB branded face masks when customers are in store and wear gloves whilst preparing orders also. We clean and disinfect tables after each customer and require customers to wear face masks when ordering on entry and if the use the toilet facilities. We have signs on the floor to adhere to social distancing and we keep our front door open to ensure appropriate ventilation.

How have the government schemes helped you sustain your business during this time?

The Government schemes have been a very positive and welcome help to our business. We were able to furlough staff during the first lockdown which secured their jobs and livelihoods. We then signed up to the Eat out to help out scheme in August which increased our revenue by £1,000 that month. We are also now signed up to the kick start scheme which will allow us to hire a staff member between the age of 16-24 and offer then a 6 month internship which is fully funded by the government. These measures have been a great help.

Are you hopeful about the future?

We are more hopeful about the future and our business model than ever before! This pandemic has shown us that our business model is sustainable even throughout a pandemic. We have met the needs of our community through collaborating with the local foodbank to provide meals for families as well as offering parent support groups and socially distanced coffee mornings to keep the community spirit alive during this time. We have learned a whole lot about our resilience, not just as a business but also as a community. We are super excited for the new franchisees coming on board as we can now say without a doubt that- THIS BUSINESS WILL WORK!

What are our customers saying? Why have they still come in to buy coffee regardless of the pandemic?

We love supporting small businesses and having gone to Jess regularly before the pandemic, it’s been an easy decision on where we want to go for coffee !It’s nice to grab a bite to eat and get out of the house. Jess has been so good with the social distancing unlike other coffee shops we have popped into. Plus, we are coffee snobs and the coffee is great! The atmosphere and vibe is more personal, Jess and the girls are really friendly and it’s like popping in to see a friend more than anything… which helps during this weird time we are living through. – Sam Van Leer, Epsom
Being able to pick up coffee and treats at Jess and the beanstalk throughout lockdown has helped us keep some normality in our lives. As a family, we love going there so it’s been really nice to still have access to their goodies! But also, it felt important to us to support the independent businesses we love. Our community wouldn’t be the same without them, so we made it a priority to get there as often as we could. – Tori Mayson, Epsom

Please click here for further information on the Jess and the beanstalk franchise opportunity

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