April 28 2020

Our Lockdown Life: Thoughtful Bakery

In an ongoing Pig Guide series publishing the thoughts, concerns and plans of local hospitality businesses during the lockdown, we’re putting Duncan Glendinning – proprietor of the Thoughtful Bakery – in the spotlight.

When the government announced the lockdown I had a tough decision to make: close, like the majority of Bath’s businesses, knowing that staff would have to go on furlough and our future would be very uncertain because of the rent and other bills we would still need to cover while closed… or stay open.

Very quickly, however, I felt the decision was taken out of our hands – bare supermarket shelves and lots of our customers and other Bath residents in a desperate situation at home and with no food meant I felt an obligation to continue to do what we do and help be part of the solution.

With huge thanks to my incredible team in the last two weeks (and an incredible chap called Julian who magicked up a website for us in less than 24 hours) we’ve completely repurposed the business. We’re now taking orders online for either collection at the bakery or home delivery, and the response has been great.

Our cafe seating area is now a stock room. We’re working closer than ever with our suppliers to stock and shift items that might otherwise go to waste, and every day is a new fight for us to keep our offering fresh and competitively priced produce and products. Don’t get me wrong; I would help any of those we are currently competing against for those all-important orders at the drop of a hat if needed, but otherwise it’s business as usual, with a finite customer base and a growing number of businesses offering similar initiatives to us.

But the ‘new normal’ for us has been so very odd – meeting people in a car park for them to collect their orders; spending early mornings freshening up our fruit and veg stocks to keep the standard of our produce high; driving here, there and everywhere to pick up stocks from restaurant kitchens. And just around the corner, every day… our hospitality industry is in tatters. I was shocked at just how many businesses closed their doors and how many of my restaurateur, bar or cafe owners and producer friends had to put their hands up and call time out. It was heart-wrenching to watch most of what made the Bath food and drink indie scene so great bottom out almost overnight. But it speaks volumes that so many of the big guns are prepared to show their vulnerability by expressing their huge concerns over their future; if all those outfits with all their venture-capital backing are worried about weathering this storm, what hope for the future do us indies have?

The high street will be a very different place when all this finally blows over; the costs of this pandemic are almost impossible to tot up. Okay, so wages are covered through the government employee retention scheme but there’s still rent to pay, and landlords are still for the most part very much looking to collect. Then there’s insurance, stock and wastage to think about – all the other costs are mounting up with no footfall, no bums on seats, to help pay for it.

But sometimes, in the most difficult of times, you see the most generous gestures being made and I have seen a huge sense of camaraderie grow immensely since the lockdown.

Those in my crew that have stayed on have been exemplary in ensuring the work in hand gets done: Mike who runs the Savouring Bath tours, Stuart who owns Sunkissed Campers, Mark (head chef of the Pump Rooms) and Nick from Seven Hills Chocolate were quick to step up and have been volunteering their time to deliver to our customers. Eddie from Roundhill Roastery dropped off a filter coffee machine to keep my team and I fuelled, and there’s been so much support from my fellow local business owners keeping us buoyed up through the long, tough days.

We also started our Covid-19 fund at the start of the crisis. To date – thanks to the generous contributions from our customers – we’ve committed to supplying over 400 meals to the RUH’s NHS front line heroes so they don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach.

I still find myself tearing up when I watch the news and I’m reminded of the huge tragedy and personal losses people up and down the country are facing. But right now, it feels so good to be doing something. As for the future… only time will tell.

Duncan Glendinning, April 2020

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