Inside track: Chantelle Nicholson says DIY is the perfect method of making change

01 September 2020 by
Inside track: Chantelle Nicholson says DIY is the perfect method of making change

Now is the ideal time to stand back, survey your business and make some considered changes, says Chantelle Nicholson.

As many of you would have experienced in the past five months, empty restaurants are grim.

I came in to check on Tredwells at the beginning of June and was filled with dread and trepidation. It was cold, dark, and soulless. I didn't want to be there ever again. How could I ever reopen something that made me feel emotionally debilitated?


Then I thought about the 40-plus people who were relying on me and set to work with a purpose – I'd take the bull by the horns and use this time to change what I could, to make things look and feel different. We needed a brighter space, one that reflected a little more what Tredwells had become.

However, I felt this time away wasn't just cause for a physical transformation. It presented an opportunity to take stock, examine our existing procedures and, if necessary, try and find better solutions. I asked my management team to prepare for a video call with all the things that frustrated them about Tredwells BC (before Covid-19). We openly discussed what changes we could make, put it all in a spreadsheet and started looking forward once again.

After some helpful advice from a like-minded contact (shout out to David Chenery from Object Space Place Design), I purchased two sanders, paint and the other necessary tools to embark on our DIY project. We then set to work lightening our interiors and creating a new terrace space.

Not letting the lack of funds be a barrier, I asked Google how to make a planter out of pallets (and found some free ones on the NextDoor app) and we set to work. What presented itself as a problem – how to get rid of our broken filing cabinet – turned into an idea to use the frame and drawers as another planter. We were getting better at this!

Not letting the lack of funds be a barrier, I asked Google how to make a planter out of pallets

I wanted to ensure we made as many positive changes as possible, despite the constrictive conditions we faced. I balanced what we could afford with what we could create ourselves, and what we had in-house. We worked on a menu that was concise and efficient (ingredients, prep time, service execution and waste-free), balancing all the operational costs that would be incurred (wages, electricity, gas and linen, for example) with menu structure. The beverage list went through the same exercise.

We debated what days and services to open; revising them to make the most of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Rotas have been flexible; based solely on how efficient we can be without undermining the essence and spirit of what we want to achieve. Everyone has expanded their roles and done it with much enthusiasm, which is inspiring. As the saying goes, adversity breeds creativity. We are by no means out of the woods, so it's time to start thinking outside of the box. In this time of unprecedented change, how will you take your business into the future?

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