Silver lining: Pandemic has shown a way to better business
Creemore’s business district has weathered the storm of the pandemic for the most part through hard work, ingenuity, customer loyalty and innovation. In some cases the pandemic has forced small business to change up their model, with some finding a better, more efficient way of doing business.
The pandemic inspired Nancy Johnston to completely change the way she served the public.
Like most businesses, The Bank Café closed last March and when it opened again in April, there was only enough space for one table.
“Inside was just too small. It wasn’t safe for my customers, it wasn’t safe for my staff. And I started watching the take-away and I thought, this really works,” said Johnston. “I was getting just as many people coming in and getting take-away than I did with sit-down. The model was working really well.”
In addition to the regular take-out menu, Johnston thought she could respond to customer requests for more take-out meal options to cook at home. She decided to do a complete redesign of the business and the physical space, which she said was always really cramped with employees crawling over each other in the kitchen. Now, walking into the Bank Café, there is a roomy service area with a large counter stacked with the familiar baked goods. New fridges and freezers line one wall and are filled with lasagna, pot pies, soups, and baked goods, all made in house. And, the café now has a baker who makes doughnuts Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
She attributes part of the success of the new model to the shift in customer expectations and their comfort levels. She said there is still a lot of uncertainty around when people are going to feel confident going back to full capacity indoor dining, so she is glad she has made the change.
That change required a big investment, including a brand new kitchen tucked away in back.
Johnston said her customers are happy to have the option of getting take out for the outdoor seating, or to take a meal from the freezer to cook at home.
“It’s been great,” she said. “And it’s only because of COVID that I pivoted from totally sit-down to take-away and gourmet meals.”
She said the change has been great for her whole team, which has inspired everyone to get creative and experiment with recipes, adding new menu items regularly.
“It has been amazing,” said Johnston. “When I started this business I wanted it to be a gathering spot… It’s better now because we have more time to spend with our customers, calmly. It’s been wonderful. I know COVID is terrible but it has been a blessing for this business.”