With the fear that many small restaurant and retail businesses won’t survive the pandemic, leading independent retail and restaurant business Eat17 has found an innovative way to stave off any change to its future landscape.

The team at Eat17, like many other restaurant businesses, knew they needed to change its foodservice landscape if it was going to make it through the pandemic.

“When the restaurants closed, we knew it would be very hard to make a takeout-and-delivery model work profitably. Eight weeks ago, by using Deliveroo and Snappy Shopper, we started to do some home deliveries. It’s been relatively successful so far. In total we’re doing approximately £8,000 a week through the home delivery channels, but we can’t make a foodservice business out of deliveries alone,” said co-owner James Brundle.

The Eat17 business, started by Brundle and his step-brother Chris O’Connor in 2006, decided to expand their SPAR shop in Walthamstow into their restaurant next door to cope with the demand in the shop whilst the restaurant remains closed. In doing so, it has allowed them to diversify their offer by making the store a destination for bakery products. “We bake artisan bread at our Bishop’s Stortford store and we are selling it in all our shops now. This success has not only seen footfall and basket spend increase but it has also resulted in us supplying other prominent London based symbol retailers with artisan bread,” said Brundle.

These are some of the legacies the pandemic is leaving. “We hope this crisis will have some long lasting effects where we will see a group of entrepreneurs and small businesses grow. We’re in the middle of an unfortunate disaster,” Brundle said. “It’s not something anyone would ever wish to happen, but what I love about our retail and restaurant community is that they’re not just sitting around waiting for it to end and wishing for it to be over. They are using their time to start something new or solve the problem and we feel there is a great opportunity for retail and restaurants to merge and start a new wave of exciting food and drink concepts.

Brundle says the pandemic has made them look at how they operate their own retail and restaurant business. In their Hackney store, they have seen retail merge with foodservice, as the Eat17 team of chefs create ‘Eat17 homemade’ a range of ready to go food for now and food for later developed with only the freshest ingredients.  The range varies from a chicken and bacon club sandwich through to Vegan Thai curries or Lobster Bisque! In Hammersmith they have seen street food suppliers work seamlessly with retail, using concession units for developing street food brands enabling customers to grab a freshly made, lunch or dinner solution or take the time to eat in and enjoy a cold glass of beer from the instore bar.

“From our recent success we hope to see more restaurant businesses think about how they can diversify and work with retail. We’ve seen how we can supply foodservice through our grocery stores and delivery service. Maybe this pandemic will mean a new wave of Eat17 franchise start-ups,” he added.

Brundle wishes he could have opened a few franchise sites before the pandemic struck because grocery stores are one of the few businesses that have seen an increase in demand as people spend more time at home.

“I would have loved to have had a franchise resource up and running before the lockdown. I believe our business model is well-positioned for the new normal, and people will be craving great food and drink within exciting retail concepts as they come out of lockdown.

“The challenges we are facing force us to be creative and quick to respond and we have seen great ideas come out of this — ideas that also help give back to the community and bring us all closer together.

“I have nothing but thanks for how our Eat17 family collaborated over the last couple of months. Authenticity is the core of who we are and is what we built this brand on.

“There has never been a better time to become your own boss and I don’t think people will forget how local small businesses worked hard to provide essential services during this challenging time,” Brundle said.

Eat17 is a business with four SPAR stores and restaurant based in Hackney, Walthamstow, Hammersmith and Bishop’s Stortford.

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