Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Now that the Corona situation in Manila is generally calmer (not better), we at Bean & Barley thought it might be a good time to share some relevant and valuable insights from cafe owners affected by the crisis worldwide . This is the third of a series of blog posts about the topic.
Bondy & Carlo Hatch Coffee Baguio City, Philippines Hatch Coffee is the newest and hippest cafe in the growing third wave coffee scene in Baguio City, Philippines. Because of its strategic location away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, Hatch has become our favorite “hiding place” to have coffee when we’re in town.
How did you react when the lockdown was announced? What were the key things you prioritized? Bondy: The Metro Manila lockdown was announced a few days before Baguio and Luzon implemented it, so we were able to prepare ourselves. When the Metro Manila lockdown was announced, we started by purchasing a week's worth of care packages for our staff consisting of canned goods and vitamins. Upon anouncement of the Baguio lockdown, we tried a week of takeout operations with a skeletal workforce. After a few days, we decided to prioritize everyone's safety and called off operations completely. We provided assistance to our staff and also applied for assistance from the government for affected businesses. Perishable items were given to some staff, a general clean up was done before closing up, and coffee beans were sealed in a box. Carlo: Safety comes first, both for cafe partners and customers. We don’t want to be in a position where anyone risks undue exposure on behalf of the business. Second is business continuity—we’re trying our best to be agile as the situation progresses, scenario planning for curbside ordering, and other options. We understand that there are bigger concerns during these times, and we need to play our part accordingly. Last would be ensuring that we manage cash and inventory well and prepare for a strong bounce back in a post-Covid scenario. How are you dealing with the lockdown, now that we’re in the middle of it? How are you keeping your employees engaged? Are you reviewing your plans and strategies? Bondy: All of our staff members are home and safe on quarantine and practicing social distancing. We have a messenger group where we can communicate from time to time, to check on one another. Some of our staff members who are heads of their respective families are taking this time to take care of themselves. For some of our baristas, we continue to communicate and use this time to learn more digitally. I send them Instagram posts and articles from coffee knowledge sources and we discuss. I emphasize that while technique and muscle memory may suffer a little, the new knowledge will still be instrumental in our development as baristas. For the management team, we are taking this opportunity to have a top to top review of the business because it is our first 3 months of operations. We have started playing out scenarios on how we will implement operations depending on how the public health situation pans out. How are you preparing to kickstart your business when the lockdown is over? Are you planning some activities to make sure you hit the ground running? Bondy: There is no clear date yet on when operations will resume so we are also waiting for the national and local governments' guidance. Once we reopen our doors, we will be sensitive to how our market responds as well. We anticipate that consumer behavior will revert a few months after the public health situation has normalized. Our focus when we reopen is getting back to the consistency and flow we were at prior to the closure. Carlo: Yes, but with the understanding that a post-Covid environment will be slightly different. As a business, we encourage communing and social interaction, though we also feel responsible to making sure that we create a safe and considerate experience for our customers when they transition Into this new reality. What are the key lessons you’ve learned so far during this time of crisis? Bondy: Lesson 1: Have a rainy day savings fund We were actually prepared for a "rainy day" but we were not expecting it this soon. The rainy season in Baguio is pretty bad for businesses and that was what we were preparing for. Now we will have to build up another rainy day fund for the next hurdles we will be facing. Lesson 2: Continue having good sanitation and hygienic practices. Prior to the Covid situation, we already had these standards, but we will review to strengthen these. Carlo: We can’t control everything but we can control our values, and even if we are a small business we can still support the people who support us. Having gone through this experience, how do you think you can make your business even more resilient in the future? Bondy: Ensure business is prepared via emergency/rainy day funds, educate staff about current events, and have good mental and physical health standards for our staff so we are prepared to respond to situations beyond our control. Carlo: I don’t think anyone could have prepared better for a situation like this; it’s possibly one of the toughest challenges a new business can face. There are many things we can continuously improve on, like cash planning and diversifying sources of income to in-home. But I believe the biggest driver of resilience is having principled and value-led leaders who are able to be flexible and decisive—and this allows us to mobilize quickly and with purpose. And that's a wrap! If you would like to have a deeper conversation about what you can do to make your coffee business more resilient to crises, feel free to get in touch with us HERE.
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