A businessman who planned to create a cook school in Dundee has described the ‘horrific’ decision to shelve the plans due to Covid-19.
Scott Brothers Butchers was granted planning permission last year to develop the floors above its Nethergate shop.
The cook school was to be on the top floor with further investment made in creating a café on another level.
Tough trading conditions and the decline in city centre footfall are the reasons behind the plans being scrapped.
Plans to ‘give something back’
Co-owner Scott Jarron, who runs the business with his brother George, described the decision to abandon their dream for the cook school as “horrific”.
He said: “We own the whole building and came up with the cook school concept three years ago. It wasn’t really about making money – it was to give something back.
“There are schoolkids and families who don’t know how to cook. We felt it was a dwindling art.
“We wanted to teach people the basics of cooking and make them realise that it doesn’t need to be difficult.
“The decision to shelve the plans is a direct result of what’s happened this year.”
Mr Jarron said while the school wasn’t intended to make money, it also couldn’t be a loss-making “black hole”.
Temporary shop closure
Scott Brothers has had one of the toughest years in the company’s 85-year history.
The hospitality side of the business, which makes up around half its turnover, has lost the majority of its trade.
The decline in footfall in the city centre saw its Nethergate premises close for around six months last year. After reopening again in November, it closed again last week until ‘at least’ January 18.
The company also previously held around 100 events a year.
Mr Jarron said one good thing to emerge from 2020 was that more people had spent time cooking at home.
This has led to increased demand at its shops in Strathmartine Road and Broughty Ferry. Online sales have also risen markedly since March.
The company has not made a single member of its 70-strong workforce redundant.
“It’s been a tough year – some successes as well as colossal failures,” Mr Jarron said.
“We have kept all 70 of our staff on and have only furloughed one worker. We are going to start using the flexible furlough in January.
“The Nethergate shop is not going to be a permanent closure. There’s just no footfall in the city centre during lockdown.”
Future proofed the business
As well as the loss in trade in certain parts of the business, the family firm has also needed to make substantial investments.
“Our production building behind our shop in Strathmartine Road required a lot of investment, around £50,000, to keep staff socially distanced and safe.
“It was a big open space which wasn’t conducive to people working in certain areas. We had to invest in new tables and fridges to create a better flow so we could keep operating.
“But now that we’ve made those changes we feel we’ve future proofed the business to some extent.
“Although it’s not been the year than anyone expected, I’d take where we are all day long when you compare Scott Brothers to other industry sectors.”
Mr Jarron said the firm would continue to engage in community work.
“Whilst our plans for the cook school in the town centre have been shelved, we are still committed to working with children and the wider community that need help to understand the importance of cooking for themselves and eating quality produce,” he said.