Having turned the plan into reality within a day, owner of Dundee cafe Pacamara let’s us in on how he has adapted his business and what customers can expect.
When even more restrictions were placed on the hospitality sector last week, it almost seemed like there was no end in sight for the many businesses who have been forced to close or change the way they operate these past few months.
But, if we’ve learned anything about our beloved local businesses, it’s that several of them have found ways to adapt to the ever-changing tide of rules. One such business is Pacamara in Dundee’s West End.
After finding out that they would only be able to serve people from the door of the cafe, owner Barry Thomson started hatching a plan within moments of the First Minister’s announcement.
That plan came to fruition last weekend and Barry’s staff have been able to continue serving customers new and old, through a custom-built hatch in their door.
Barry said: “I had an idea of how we were going to work the hatch but by the time a builder came along on the Friday, with the restrictions coming into force on the Saturday. The builder had said he could come on the Friday and have a look but probably wouldn’t get a chance to do it until the week after, which wasn’t ideal but I was aware I was trying to do it at very short notice.
“When the builder arrived he said they could actually do it that night. His idea was far better than mine as mine was going to be far more complicated and was going to be really expensive. There was that side of it – which was just physically taking out the pain of glass and putting the hatch in and building a shelf either side of it.”
YES… WE’LL STILL BE OPEN AFTER SATURDAY! We’ll be serving you all from our doorway, and will figure out some…
New way of working
Though Pacamara is one of only a handful of businesses that has been able to remain open, the way the cafe operates has had to change drastically.
Barry added: “We found the way we are working is very different now because we have to constantly have one person standing at the hatch, and unfortunately for us our coffee machine is right at the back of the cafe and can’t be moved so there is usually someone back there, too.
“Everything else has been brought down to the front and we’ve dressed the window to look more like a shop and look a little more inviting. Normally we have tables in the window but now we have a display of things for sale – we’ve brought our cake counter down, which has been really popular, and our team are having to work very differently in terms of how they are communicating.
“We’ve had to invest a little bit of money in technology that’s going to help us. The way we did it before worked absolutely perfectly for sit-in, but not at all with the two members of staff being split across the cafe.
“In terms of new technology, we already had a computerised till system but we recently added a handheld device. For the first few days we were doing it old school effectively as the person at the hatch was shouting the orders to the back of the cafe and whoever was taking it was writing it down so they didn’t forget it. It worked ok but the other complication that we have is that our kitchen is on a different floor to the restaurant and the chefs are completely detached from it. So when we had food orders on, that was quite tricky but the handheld has fixed all those problems.
“A member of staff can now greet the customer, take their order and payment at the hatch, then via wi-fi the order is sent down to the kitchen and, if necessary, to the bar as well. The way the hatch has been done means staff are well separated from customers, so it’s as safe for them as it is for us.”
First morning of the Covid Safe Coffee hatch going super smooth 😎 Can’t thank Mike Storrie Joiner enough for pulling out all the stops to get this ready for us in time.Still open 7 days a week serving tasty food and coffee with slightly amended opening times…Mon to Fri – 9am to 4pmSat, Sun – 9.30am to 4pm
Posted by Pacamara Food & Drink on Saturday, January 16, 2021
With their new way of operating, Barry reveals that the cafe feels safest now than it has been since June, for both customers and his team.
“Customers have also been great. They’ve accepted that it’s got to work slightly differently and the feedback we’ve had is that people are just so grateful that we’re open and giving them their coffee fix,” said Barry.
“The way we’re operating at the moment is the safest way we’ve been able to operate since June, when we reopened after the lockdown.
“We’re serving a very slightly restricted menu, as some of the time we’re having to run with one chef in order to stick to the new rules. Some of our usual dishes are a bit tricky for just one person so we’ve tried to simplify it. At the moment we’re doing about 80% of our normal menu.
“A lot of our hot food doesn’t really lend itself to takeaway. But we also felt that if we reopened and stopped doing all the food we are known for and tried to adapt too much, a lot of our regular customers might not come back. People want normality at the moment so we’ve tried to keep the menu as normal as possible.”
Operating in these times hasn’t been easy for any business, but a boost came to Pacamara when they started making doughnuts, which have been bringing customers to their door.
Barry added: “We’ve started doing doughnuts. We’ve wanted to do them for at least a couple of years. When our kitchen is really busy, there’s no way it’s feasible. But on the first day back we made a few just to test people’s reactions, and they sold out in the first morning.
“We did double the next day and they’d sold out by lunchtime.
“I think that’s the one thing we’ve done that have brought people to us during this time than anything. We hope it’s something people continue to do after lockdown and that they’ll continue to come back.”
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