"You've got to go out and try something" to survive the coronavirus crisis, according to Ryan Simpson-Trotman, who has converted Orwells restaurant into a community store and takeaway fish and chip shop.
Orwells Community Shop opened when the country was put in lockdown last month and sells store cupboard essentials, freshly baked bread, meat, fish, vegetables and pre-prepared meals for either delivery or collection.
"We decided to launch an online shop so we can serve locals," said Simpson-Trotman. "We've got a great network of suppliers, so if we can provide fantastic produce to the community, it's better than them waiting in queues in the supermarkets. Plus it keeps our staff in a job."
The shop also sells a three-course Sunday roast for £30, fish and chips on a Friday night for £15 per portion and ready-to-heat starters, small plates and mains under the Orwells @ Home brand.
"The Sunday roasts came about because we closed the restaurant just before Mothers' Day and we had 100 booked. We didn't want to let people down, so turned the restaurant into a delivery service. We did 100 covers and it was one of hardest days of life as we had no logistics in place and were delivering all over the shop.
"The following week, we invested in sustainable packaging and redesigned the roast so it can travel better as a cold meal that can be reheated in 15 minutes. We did 80 covers the next week, 160 over Easter Sunday and this week we expect to be doing big covers."
Simpson-Trotman expanded the offer to include takeaway fish and chips last week and sold 80 portions within days of the fryer arriving from Nisbets.
"We developed a batter recipe that we knew can hold for an hour, as we knew it needed to be really crispy – people could be travelling for 10 or 15 minutes. It comes in a recyclable paper carton, triple-cooked chips, beautiful crispy battered haddock, crushed garden peas and a homemade chunky tartare sauce. The reaction has been phenomenal and orders are flying in for this Friday already. My goal is 120 portions."
As with the community shop, orders are made online and customers are allocated a collection slot for pickup from a contactless service point in the car park.
"The margins aren't the same as Orwells restaurant. Tasting menu margins outweigh a roast tenfold. It's not about making profit, it's about staying alive. If we've got money coming in and we're breaking even, we've got a business model.
"It's 100% made me reconsider the future direction of the business. I don't want to cling on to the Orwells model in the hope it's going to be back next week. If we do this well, something good might come of it and we might end up going down this route in the future.
"The future is very uncertain, no one has answers and we can't cling onto daily Downing Street briefings. You've got to go out and try something if you've got the capacity to do it."
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