A bicycle cafe business adapting to covid-19

2020 we’re ready for you…….so we thought

We opened our doors again at 24 Lillie Road on Monday 6th Jan 2020, ready for the start of our second year of pedal back cycling. Coming out of our hangover of Christmas where we managed to eat and drink our own weight and celebrate New Years with our family and friends saying to each other, 2020 has a great ring to it, doesn’t it?

We have our routine or as we like to think ritual every morning we set up for pedal back cycling, each morning, whack on the espresso machine, take our daily delivery of bread, pastries and milk, prepare our takeaway quick bites, set up our display and then check the news in the morning.

If you commute by PT I feel sorry for you son I got 99 problems but my bike ain’t one. It’s a pain if you’re delayed, by tube, bus or train before work that means you have none or little time to pop into us at Pedal Back Cycling for coffee, pastry fix and a pre-work chat, though some of you just say sod it as you’re late anyway…….you know who you are.

In the news the outbreak of covid-19 in the East of the world was regularly popping up in the news and for two months we could see the virus growing and control deteriorating in equal measure, but still reasoned that statistically lots of people get the flu which is pretty serious and it’s probably being sensationalised by the media etc.

We continued to trade February - March, at that point there weren't restrictions on our liberty of movement for the general public or businesses. Advice was dripping in on social distancing and restrictions for over 70s to self isolate came into effect on 15th March. I think the week that followed was the toughest for us in terms of how we would or could still trade without putting our staff, customers and ourselves in unnecessary risk. How much were we at risk right there and then, should we close or keep going?

We decided to function as a takeaway, being ever the adaptable queens, when something isn’t going to plan we have a chat about random plans and hurrah we get to a decision. In this instance we created a takeaway bar for our entrance. This bar was made from a wooden pallet, the wooden type you get from bulk deliveries, we intended to use it to slot bike wheels in but the slots were too small for bike wheels to stand in, so it was just lying redundant in our basement albeit not anymore..

That Monday evening of 16th March, we built our takeaway bespoke, upcycled bar. We had some yellow paint left so we attached a sanded wood top and painted it yellow to fit in with our branding of pedal back cycling of course! We moved our izettle till system (app and ipad) to the front of the shop with our card reader, menu and sugar pots and opened our doors as a takeaway from Tuesday 17th.

Our customers were chuffed we were still trading, even if they couldn’t pop in, they could still get their coffee fix and have a chat and catch up with us. If a customer required a bicycle repair we would let them enter pedal back cycling to book the repair and give them a call when it was ready. We were happy with this set up, our staff who made the coffees were at the back of pedal back at the espresso machine making the coffees and our customers were still getting our service.

The next four days were challenging as we still weren’t sure if we were doing the right thing by continuing trade. However our customers kept us going in a sense they were relieved that we were still open offering caffeine, repairs and takeaway food, some normality in an abnormal situation. We got to Friday expecting that we would have to shut down, due to pedal back cycling being a cafe business with a bicycle and repair shop. So Friday evening, after the PM’s broadcast confirming our fears, we closed shop.

So whilst on our 6 week lockdown we’ve been concentrating on ensuring our staff at pedal back cycling are looked after, planning our reach to customers online until we can re-open and planning what we can do at pedal back when the lockdown is lifted and to what extent, go back to life, back to reality. Also we’re trying to stop binge watching on Netflix and actually get dressed, joking!

On a serious note, we are anxious about our survival through lockdown, as in dealing with furlough at pedal back cycling, applying for business grants and loans that work for us and give us confidence and the stability to move forward and adapt at this uncertain time. Even with the anxiety and uncertainty we are making plans on coming back and swinging our doors open at West Brompton Crossing, we are just planning the best business modal where we can provide our customers the best of pedal back, as well as the business providing us to live and pay bills through this.

In the meantime we’re enjoying the quiet roads and getting around when we need to by bike, London is such a beautiful city with less traffic, wouldn’t you agree?

Big love Ria & Nic x

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