COVID-19 hero: 24 The Oval

The unexpected arrival of COVID-19 has resulted in unforeseen changes for every business, regardless of industry or geographical location. In our darwinian world, businesses become survivors by demonstrating their adaptability to change when new conditions emerge. We will explore this idea by looking at the UK SMEs who are facing the storm head on – embracing the change, pivoting their business models, and moving rapidly to meet the needs of their existing and new customers in a lock-down environment.

In the UK, this shift to adapt is particularly noticeable in the food and drink industry. While some businesses have been forced to close their doors during lock-down, many small cafes, bars, and restaurants have decided to pivot to a delivery-first offering.

Following the enforced closure of all restaurants and bars, London-based Andrew and Kelsey Bradford transformed their farm-to-plate restaurant 24 The Oval into a farm shop and hot food takeaway. The ban on restaurant trading provided them with an opportunity to trial transforming their premises into a farm shop, bakery, and bottle store, while retaining and protecting their staff.

The initial breakdown of the supply chain was a major impediment to business and threatened more than just their own livelihood:

“Over half of our suppliers closed shop overnight. We found that offering to pay suppliers upfront helped us bring back small producers of eggs and heritage vegetables that would have had to shut down without a fast source of cash flow.

Even though we were showing excellent sales figures, investing in new product lines meant we were constantly draining our cashflow reserves to buy initial stock”.

While every day brings new challenges, the Bradfords are now doing excellent trade and are optimistic about their future. The enthusiasm shown by their customers (who can often be seen queuing around the block) has inspired them to look into a more long-term change, with the couple looking to develop their restaurant model to include a permanent version of the farm shop, bakery, and bottle store within the current location and throughout other premises. 

In addition to financial success, they have a newfound appreciation of how crucial their service has proven for the neighbourhood:

“The social and service side of our farm shop is an incredibly important part of the service and we were really enjoying the amount of interaction we get with our neighbours”.

The businesses highlighted in this spotlight series, and businesses like them, make up the lifeblood of the UK economy. It is up to us as consumers to explore how we can support those small companies making a difference. If you live in South-West London, consider ordering a freshly-cooked meal, a crate of fresh farm produce, or a six-pack of bottled beer through 24 The Oval’s call-and-collect service. Remember to shop small, and shop local. 

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