To coin a phrase from Miley Cyrus, Covid-19 came in like a wrecking ball. It decimated lives, businesses and the economy. As if the threat of a no deal Brexit was not enough! But the wise Greek philosopher Plato famously said that necessity is the mother of invention. For many businesses battling to survive Covid-19, never has a truer word been spoken.
Here at Castleton Farm Shop & Café, along with countless other businesses, we have had to dig deep to survive. Now, as some normality has resumed we thought we’d share with you how we reinvented our service overnight, many times with little notice.
The bare necessities
When lock down hit we had a feather in our cap, a feather we were immediately most grateful for, our shop was full of food essentials and therefore could remain open. The now empty café was fully utilised as we spread out our shop contents allowing for a safer shopping experience.
Our takeaway menu was pared down to the house favourites, where stock allowed (we couldn’t get our hands on fresh fish for a while!). We also created a non-contact collection service for our shoppers. We offered our popular afternoon teas as a takeaway service. The afternoon teas seemed to be a perfect lift to peoples’ spirits. They were also a fantastic alternative to dining out – we sold almost five hundred afternoon teas on Mother’s Day!
Already having an established chilled takeaway range in our shop allowed for people to help those in our shielded community stock up on healthy, hearty meals.
Delivering our future
The above steps were all just tweaks to our existing service. We started offering a shopping delivery service which proved to be a game changer for us and our local community. Utilising the vehicles we already had for the farm, we were able to offer deliveries from Montrose to Aberdeen six days a week. This was a life line for our customers. In addition to providing the necessities, our customers were also able to have indulgent treats in the form of our famous strawberry tarts.
Home delivery – battling to survive Covid-19As the long-term impact of Covid-19 became more apparent we knew we had to bring forward the building of our outdoor dining area. Plans to build our extension were already in the pipeline but it was now more important than ever. An outdoor dining area properly facilitates socially distanced dining and allows the café to continue to be used for shopping.
The stunning outdoor dining area was completed shortly after dining was once again permitted. It was immediately a big success. Our customers have repeatedly told us how safe they feel and that they are happy that we are taking the threat of Covid-19 seriously.
But as Lord Stark famously says “winter is coming” and in Scotland that usually means sooner than you’d think. That is why we are adding heaters and three glass walls to our outdoor area, so you’ll be somewhat protected from the elements.
Lock down seemed the perfect time to concentrate more on our Castleton Farm Preserves. Increasing marketing on our ranges led to a big increase in demand. Our preserves production kitchen went in to overdrive to keep up! In business you can never underestimate the importance of having more than one string to your bow.
Let’s get digital
As well as the enforced thinking-on-your-feet the pandemic brought, we were also advantaged in being able to utilise our well-established digital presence. Using a range of content across our social media channels ensured we kept our customers up to date with all the changes to our service. In fact, our very own Manager Pam became somewhat of a local celebrity with her regular vlogs and her coining of the phrase #besafe #besensible #shoplocal.
Christmas is coming
Knowing that Covid-19 is with us for the foreseeable we are now turning our attention to the different demands of our customers during the Christmas period. We shall be offering our Castleton Gift Hamper service as an alternative to Christmas get togethers. In addition, in a first for 2020, we will be offering delivery service of our Christmas food orders.
Our grateful thanks
During this time of businesses battling to survive Covid-19, we are most grateful that we have been able to continue to offer a service. We are also very thankful for our loyal customers who have continued to support us and encourage us along the way. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without our fantastic team who worked tirelessly in the most unusual and challenging circumstances
Now 2021 what have you got for us? Nope, let’s not even jest!