Case Study: Love to Eat Cafe

Love to Eat Café was taken over by Fiona MacKenzie almost three years ago and continued to build on the ethos of providing great customer service and fabulous food and drink. As a small, local food and drink business, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was huge. When the UK went into lockdown, Love to Eat initially had to close for a short time, staff were furloughed, and the business was uncertain, but resilience kicked in. Additional challenges presented themselves, such as supply chain disruptions, which had a direct impact on the quality of service. Café life was no longer normal or predictable; Love to Eat pretty much had its outside catering calendar stripped overnight which had been a building block of its core business. No amount of business planning could ever have anticipated this pandemic.

The UK went into lockdown just before Mother’s Day for which Love to Eat was fully booked. However, even during the pandemic, customers still wanted to treat their mums for an afternoon tea. So, with support from the customers, Love to Eat have transformed the bookings into a takeaway offer. Customer feedback was very positive and since then, “Lockdown Afternoon Teas” became a big hit. With the support from the local community groups like Woodthorpe Community Group, York Mumbler and the local Covid-19 group and many other networks sharing the news, bookings started to evolve. Love to Eat’s social media following increased significantly, growing from around 1,000 to 1,900 within just a few weeks. This service has put some smiles on customers’ faces at such a difficult and challenging time for many, and Love to Eat will continue with this valuable service for the short to medium term. Fiona says “without a core service, Love to Eat would really have struggled to keep going. The local community has been critical to our survival”.

Support from Make It York helped Fiona to identify the funding available to her and the team have linked her to a number of helpful training sessions and contacts. In this time of uncertainty, Fiona noted that the City of York Council has been very responsive to general queries and the Covid-19 Business Support Pack has been a very useful resource. Fiona has also received the Small Business Grant Fund, administered by City of York Council. The grant will help Love to Eat develop future opportunities for the business, including training and upskilling staff and re-branding the café to better promote exciting new products and services.

Fiona MacKenzie, the owner of the Love to Eat café, said: “The spread of Covid-19 and the nationwide lockdown has had a huge impact on my business – everything happened so quickly. It was a big challenge to think about how to keep the business going! We had to consider new ways of offering our products to customers and move our ‘normal’ café service to takeaway and delivery services.

Louise Saw, Business Growth Manager from Make It York has been a big help, offering advice and introducing me to other contacts and businesses, who could help deal with the impact of Covid-19. Charles Storr, Economy and Enterprise Manager from Make It York was also very proactive in getting in touch and sharing information about the available funding and financial support. I was delighted to receive a Small Business Grant Fund from City of York Council. The application process was easy, and the funding arrived promptly.

The funding will allow me to focus on future business priorities, setting up an online platform to streamline the booking process, continue the delivery service, and work on raising the profile of Love to Eat. Receipt of the grant has been critical in reshaping the café to provide a facility which will enable us to continue to grow and flourish in a very different market.

There are quite a few exciting developments for Love to Eat so watch this space. In challenging times, opportunities can be positive as well as negative. Love to Eat is a very important part of the community and we hope to still see our wonderful customers, albeit in a very different world!”

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