Cargo Coffee Bar, Jersey, Channel Islands.
In the first few weeks of the pandemic becoming a global reality, watching the news was very difficult - we were horrified at how fast the world was completely changing. The pandemic changed the rhythm of our daily lives like nothing we’ve experienced before.
Hospitality businesses need socializing and guests coming in, and the ways of socializing were completely redefined by the regulations imposed by lockdown, directly affecting the core and purpose of our shop. For two years we had worked on creating and maintaining a space where people felt welcome, where people wanted to gather, drink a great cup of coffee, eat and celebrate. Being told we could not open our doors to the public and share that culture and experience with our customers was soul-crushing.
As the leaders of Cargo, our job is to create stability. When we hire people, we make them a promise. We bring them on and set a picture for what the vision is going to be and how we’ll work together to bring that vision to life. When there is and was so much uncertainty (and the situation is constantly evolving) we still have a team of people relying on us and looking at us for direction.
It was really hard to communicate what the path ahead would be when you, yourself are still trying to keep up with the constant influx of new information and new regulations while not fully understanding what the picture. We eventually came to the point where we started to accept that things were out of our control and weren't going to go as planned. This realization allowed us to lean into the question: what’s next?
It is simply not in our nature to curl up and wait for things to get better. We quickly had to pull together and assess the damage. We had to think of a plan to ensure we would make it to the other side, to make sure we could keep our team members employed, support our suppliers and farmers and keep serving our community.
At the initial closure of restaurants, we refocused our business model from an eat-in to a take away and pick-up only offer by enabling phone orders and orders via our social media platforms. A few days later we saw the launch of Fetch, an online platform built almost overnight to help small businesses like ours stay afloat, which allowed us to adapt and introduce island-wide deliveries.
While home deliveries were nothing new, it was a big change for a small business like ours. Even though Fetch was a godsend, making the shift to an online platform presented a whole new world of challenges. We went from offering breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday to delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner island-wide, seven days a week. We soon realised we didn't have the right tools available; simple things like insulated containers to keep the food warm, and the vehicles and the manpower to facilitate deliveries. We also had to develop a new internal system to incorporate and process customer orders placed through Fetch, phone, email, and social media platforms.
Overnight we had no tables to seat, no water glasses to refill, but countless online orders to fulfil so we repurposed the roles and responsibilities of our team. Our chefs redesigned menus and turned into food prepping machines, barista and front of house responsibilities were reassigned to processing orders and packing out delivery orders, owners and managers turned into contactless delivery drivers. We were still Cargo, the same logo, same team but we had to become a brand-new business operating, in a completely different way, in only a matter of days.
These challenging times have given us the confidence to know when things change, we can too. When starting a new business, there is so much excitement, but that feeling can get lost when you get caught up in the minutiae of the day-to-day business activities and after some time, it’s easy to forget why you started in the first place.
This period in our journey forced us back into scramble mode and got us back in touch with the things we love doing most. We love starting something new, building things, we love going through the process of setting stuff up and solving new challenges. It feels good to be back in that zone and to reconnect with the original passion. And while we were in ‘the zone’, we were presented with an opportunity to expand our business, and got a chance to start something new again! We have now set up our second site, The Yard, inside the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery – a total dream come true for us.