One of the biggest business casualties of the coronavirus lockdown has been the temporary, and sadly permanent, closure of many cafés, restaurants and hospitality venues.
Louise Pickering owner of Cherish Vintage Tea Room in Gullane, has not allowed coronavirus to stand in the way. Early in lockdown they launched the ‘Freezer Pack’ and orders flooded in, as people battened down the hatches and chose to have treats delivered rather than venture out. Freshly baked scones, cakes and shortbread, which could be frozen at home, became an instant hit with customers who frequently admitted the contents did not make it to the freezer! Louise delivered goods to customers who were self-isolating or shielding, some of whom lived alone. She found people really appreciated their delivery and enjoyed a quick chat from the end of the garden path. “Local support has been amazing” says Louise, adding that many customers placed repeat orders to be guaranteed a delivery slot each week.
Deserted roads made the delivery routes easy to navigate. During the busiest delivery period Cherish travelled over 1,500 miles in just a few weeks delivering from Dunbar to Dreghorn, Cockenzie to Corstorphine, Penicuik to Pathhead, Gullane to Granton and almost everywhere in between. Whilst delivering Louise has played with puppies in gardens, been faced with a middle-aged man sporting a fluffy onesie and had to avert her eyes as a door was opened by a young man wearing nothing but a skimpy pair of underpants!
With staff furloughed it was up to Louise and Tea Room manager Carol to take care of online and phone orders, baking and delivering as well as sourcing ingredients. At times this proved a challenge. Louise says; “There was a point where I did think we would run out of self-raising flour, which considering most of our baking needs it, would have been a big problem.” However, after a little creative thinking, stocks were replenished and the Tea Room was even able to offer baking ingredients such as yeast, bread flour and caster sugar to customers for sale.
As lockdown progressed, Louise began to see a definite shift in order requests. Moving from ‘having scones in the freezer just in case’ to more of a ‘let’s treat ourselves’ mentality. Orders for afternoon tea deliveries began to rocket as people looked for a pick-me-up during lockdown. The baking list at Cherish moved from multiple batches of scones and loaf cakes to mini Victoria sponges and chocolate caramel slices, alongside dainty finger-sandwiches. People placed orders for friends and family whom they were unable to visit on special occasions.
The pre-order and delivery initiative has proven so popular that Louise and the team aim to keep aspects of the service going once normality resumes. As restrictions lift and people are become more confident to venture out, Cherish continues to adapt its offering. The Tea Room and patio are open every day but customers are still able to place orders for collection or home delivery. Louise adds; “We feel very fortunate that we have been able to continue to serve the local community and bring a smile to people’s faces through delivery of our home baking. We look forward to the day when we can once again serve our customers inside the Tea Room and resume our workshops and events programme. Until then Cherish will continue to welcome customers from a safe distance, baking treats for them to enjoy. The oven is always on!”