What's it like to run a business during COVID-19
Times are tough for many small businesses. There's so much uncertainty. You've got to adapt, keep working hard, be positive and deal with all the surprises around the corner.
If your business needs help or more information please take a look at our COVID-19 FAQs for businesses.
We wanted to hear from one of our small business customers to find out how they're coping. We interviewed, via email, of course, the co-owner of The Foghorn Micropub in Brighton Tommy Bowen, along with Tim Harrow and Niall Buckler.
We discovered what Tommy’s experience of the lockdown is like with two very young children. What advice he had for other small business owners and what the future plans are for The Foghorn.
Getting to grips with the new normal
"Not having to clean the gents is probably the one good thing to come out of this!"
So, Tommy how did you feel at the beginning of the crisis in March?
Very apprehensive – for ourselves and our customers, many of whom we now consider friends. It felt like this could be the end of a dream that we had worked so hard to realise.
And how do you feel now?
More positive, but overall still very much in limbo. We've moved to doing deliveries, and will soon be offering take-away service from the pub window. But it's not the same as having a fully operating pub, both financially and socially. I think what we're all missing the most is sharing a drink and a chat with our family and friends in a friendly pub environment.
What was your old routine?
At weekends, a day could be up to 14 hours. We’d be in at 10am to clean, do the banking and any cellar jobs or admin that needed doing, then we’d be off home at about midnight.
What is your working day like now?
Much shorter. Not having to clean the gents is probably the one good thing to come out of this! We'll arrive around midday, process the online orders we've taken, then head out the door for deliveries at 2pm. They usually take a few hours, then it's back to the pub to finish off any odd jobs before the next day.
What changes have you made to your business? How have you adapted?
Well we never delivered before! It's been a learning curve, but it's great seeing the old faces that we’re used to seeing over the bar, and people seem to like getting four pints delivered to their doorstep – though obviously it's not the same. We've also teamed up with a great local African and Indian cuisine restaurant Kitgum Kitchen to deliver their food on Saturdays which has added a new dimension to the business.
How to survive these times
“Don't be rigid. Look at any possible way you can adapt what you do into the current climate.”
What are the three biggest challenges facing businesses like yours?
Rent payments, long-term sustainability, and ensuring suppliers can still provide us with their product.
What advice would you give other businesses in a similar position to yours?
Don't be rigid. Look at any possible way you can adapt what you do into the current climate.
What enables a business to survive during hard times?
New ideas. We're constantly thinking and discussing how we can inject new and interesting elements to what we do.
Dealing with the challenges
"It’s been tough not being able to see family."
What challenges have you faced being at home?
Looking after our two daughters, a three year-old and a two month-old, is a challenge at the best of times but this situation has made things especially interesting!
What’s been the toughest point?
Not being able to see family, and not having that support network that's so important when you have a newborn baby.
Have you dealt with difficulties before, and if so how does this compare?
As a business we've been lucky that it's been really smooth sailing after the initial stresses of actually getting the doors open. So this is really the first hurdle we've had to deal with.
Keeping team spirit up
"I think talking is very important."
How have you kept connected?
We run a Virtual Pub every Thursday where we chat to our colleagues and some of the locals over a drink. It's just a little thing but it's been going really well and always puts a smile on everyone’s faces.
How do you keep a sense of team spirit?
I think talking is very important. We want to keep morale up of course. Obviously we all want the pub to open again as normal, but we have to be realistic and understand this is a very long time away. So we adapt, accept the situation we're in and work with that, and try and have a bit of a laugh along the way.
Looking to the future
"I think we've realised we can be more than a pub."
Are there any positives to come out of this? If so what?
I think we've realised we can be more than a pub. We're certainly looking at other avenues that we want to pursue down the line.
How are you prepping for the future?
We're taking advantage of the pub's physical closure to spruce the place up and rejig a few things. Ultimately we want to install a brewery and make our own beer for sale onsite, so this is a good opportunity to make strides with that.
What are your thoughts on how the future of your business will look?
Ideally, back to how it was before in the physical sense, but we may keep on with the delivery side of things if the demand is there.
How has EDF helped you?
EDF is a big presence in the local community. As well as providing a good service, their nearby offices provide us with some thirsty punters after work pre Covid-19!
How has having a steady energy supply during lockdown helped keep you going as a business?
Whether the pub is open or not we need constant electricity for our beer cooling system, so it has been essential that our supply has been reliable. On top of that there’s lighting and internet which are both highly important for what we’re doing!
The bright side
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Delivering four pints of real ale to a happy punter!
Have you done anything you always wanted to do but never got the opportunity to during this time?
Well, I did shave my head...
Help and support from EDF
If you need any support during the Coronavirus crisis, take a look at our COVID-19 FAQs. There are all kinds of ways we're helping business get through this challenging time.
We know your energy supply isn't top of mind at the moment, but your energy consumption has most likely changed. We want to help make sure you only pay for the energy your business is currently using. So we’re asking you to take regular meter readings, if it’s safe to do so. You can send us your meter readings via MyAccount.
Did you know you can also get 7% off your bills if you pay by Direct Debit? Now, more than ever, every little saving can help. Set up your Direct Debit via MyAccount.
Don't forget the UK government is providing support for businesses and employees. Find out about the support available on the government's website.