WeeCOOK Kitchen was one of 10 winners of a national competition run by Vodafone which rewarded digital diversity and engagement during lockdown.
An Angus restaurateur has been invited to provide her ideas on how to help hospitality businesses coming out of lockdown after winning a nationwide competition.
The WeeCOOK Kitchen, based at Barry Downs, near Carnoustie, won a contest run by Vodafone to give vital support to small businesses across the UK.
And their prize is a bespoke social media marketing campaign on Facebook and Instagram, which will also be amplified across Vodafone’s own social media channels to potentially reach more than a million people.
The business will also receive online business strategy sessions with Vodafone’s V-Hub digital business experts.
Chef/owner Hayley Wilkes said that the switch to doing business online was key when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world.
“With the devastating and short-notice closure of everything, it dawned on us that everyone would be spending more time on their laptops, tablets and smartphones during lockdown.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to continue to engage with customers through our social media channels.
“We used virtual payments, did the virtual markets, did online cooking demos and little things like that to engage with our customers.
“That window became our window to the world. We realised that the only way we could operate was to do this and it all kind of happened out of necessity.
“We started off by selling our pies on the website and we built things from there. I genuinely believe if you take that element away then I don’t think we would have been where we are without the technology and the digital presence that has enabled us to do it.”
And as part of the prize for being one of 10 winners, Hayley will be giving her thoughts on how businesses can emerge strongly from the lockdown when hospitality begins to reopen at the end of next month.
She added: “I have been invited to do a networking chat event with the prime minister’s business advisor which is sometime in April.
“I have been asked to give our opinion on things that might help with hospitality businesses coming out of lockdown, any ideas we have and things that we can share which sounds quite cool.
“I am keen to find out new ways we can reach our customers. We are keen to sell our pies throughout the UK and we are keen to get some advice on that stuff as well. There are always things you can learn.”
Smaller businesses and artisan producers throughout the area have been working together during the Covid-19 lockdowns, something which Hayley said would not have been possible without a digital presence and social media activity.
“During lockdown, there are all the others that we have linked in with too, such as Appetite for Angus and our other groups,” she added.
“Normally, we always so each other at the farmers’ markets but with that gone for a while, digital and social media was the only way of getting together and filled the void.
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Posted by Wee COOK on Friday, February 19, 2021
“That has huge potential to grow further and become a forum to grow local businesses in Angus when things open up again.
“It’s almost like a transition or a crossover and I think that is what the future will hold in terms of how people shop. I think it will become a hybrid of people going to the shops, but also the convenience and the offers that you might get from your digital experience as well.”
Vodafone’s judging panel included former Dragons’ Den investor and entrepreneur Piers Linney, Enterprise Nation CEO Emma Jones CBE, and Vodafone’s head of small business, Andrew Stevens.
The judges said WeeCOOK had demonstrated an ingenious use of digital technology to attract customers during the pandemic.
They continued to remain open during lockdown and decided to adapt the use of social media to engage with customers.
The business hosted virtual pie-making classes for children and adults and a virtual farmers’ market. It also introduced free scheduled deliveries across Scotland and a 25% discount for NHS and emergency services workers.
Anne Sheehan, business director, Vodafone UK said: “I’d like to congratulate The WeeCOOK Kitchen who were worthy winners of this competition and I hope will go from strength to strength as a result of this social media boost.
“We launched the Shout Out for Small Business campaign to continue raising awareness of the brilliant things small businesses have done to survive the pandemic. While the pandemic has presented many challenges, the ability to engage with and attract customers online opens up all kinds of business opportunities.”