Last week we launched our Back in Business campaign to help firms get on their feet again. JOE HARRIGAN speaks to the owner of a cafe to find out how the outlet survived in the toughest of circumstances

OF all the sectors affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality industry has been badly hit.

None are more aware of the economic impact than the owners of the various small cafes and eateries that give our town’s their own unique local flavour.

But these hard times have also given many proprietors an opportunity to think creatively, such as the Café by the River, based at Read Garden Centre, which has spent the lockdown period keeping customers spirits up with a range of Afternoon Tea Boxes.

Owner Sarah Baxter said: “During the third week of being closed I decided I couldn’t just sit back and not do anything so I set up a takeout where people could collect from the car park.

“I got inundated with orders, so I brought two of my staff off furlough and it just built and built.”

She added: “We started doing afternoon tea boxes for VE Day and from there they just built up and up and we’ve found that even after VE Day people kept on ordering them for celebrations like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.”

Ms Baxter cannot wait to get the popular cafe opened up again on Saturday but she is well aware that the safety of herself, staff and customers comes first.

Visitors will need to book ahead and adhere to safety regulations.

Cafes will need all the support they can get in the coming period with the news this week that national chain Upper Crust is planning to cut around 5,000 jobs.

Local outlets like Café by the River hope to rely on the affections of loyal customers who have stuck with them through the crisis and show every sign of continuing to do so in the months and years ahead.

Ms Baxter said: “The customer support has been phenomenal; they’ve probably ordered stuff specifically to help keep us in business.

"There’s one guy who’s been coming every day for six weeks to pick up his breakfast and I feel like he’s really supporting us.”

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