Dealing with COVID - notes from a start-up coffee roaster

by Char

Running a start-up coffee roasters in the midst of a global pandemic was not what we had planned. "2020 will be our year!" we said... oh how wrong we were.

After launching Fire & Flow last November we had a few months of settling into the business, adapting to growing pains and the ball was rolling with onboarding wholesale partners. At this time the news started to trickle in, and eventually, COVID stopped us in our tracks. All of our wholesale partners were forced to close their coffee shops overnight, leaving the nation without their much-needed coffee fix - and we hadn’t even launched our retail website yet.

After what can only be described as teetering on the edge of blind panic, some terrible ‘blue sky’ ideas, and a casual conversation about how feasible it would be to offer branded hand sanitiser, we put our heads together to ensure we keep moving forward.

We set ourselves a one week deadline to launch our retail website, and the preceding days were spent trying (and failing) to get the right light for product photography at home. They say if the photographer is good enough, then no editing will be needed. Editing was definitely needed.

Once our website was live we launched ‘Give a Gift’, where customers could send their loved ones the gift of speciality coffee at home, to keep spirits high during the lockdown. This was so popular that we received requests to send coffee treats to employees working from home. This spurred us to launch ‘Work Perks’ so that employees could enjoy delicious, high quality coffee (with a delicious brownie in tow) at home, as they would have done in their office.

Along with this, we found a massive increase in people watching our ‘How to Home Brew’ videos, so that they could learn how to brew coffee shop quality coffee at home. We therefore held webinars in partnership with workplaces to educate customers on the ethics, sourcing and qualities of coffee. We had just about managed to find our feet, navigating our way through the ever-changing landscape around us, but all the time ensuring that we kept our mission in mind - to inspire others on how to get the best out of speciality coffee.

When it came to the eagerly awaited re-opening of coffee shops across the UK, we found that our wholesale partners were unsure of the best procedures and signage to have in place, in order to re-open as safely as possible. Some may say that the Government's guidance wasn’t completely clear... (That's us, we would say that).

After gathering our partners thoughts, ideas and concerns we put together an article on ‘How to safely reopen your coffee shop during COVID’, bringing together advice on all aspects of the business from PPE to payment apps.

It feels good to say that we are now seeing a growth of confidence in the industry, with many of our partners reporting record days, along with many who had delayed their opening now deciding it’s time to take the leap and open the doors to their new coffee shop. Seeing our partners' success is what puts a smile on our face, and we can only hope to see the confidence and growth in speciality coffee continue into the foreseeable future. For us, there’s no doubt.