“We’re all in the same boat”
It’s a phrase I keep hearing over and over again during the past year but the problem is, we’re not all in the same boat! We might be on the same river and mostly moving in the same direction but I can assure you, we are in very different boats.
Covid-19 has affected us all in different ways. Some of us have lost jobs, some have lost friends and family and some have kept working on the front line. The Nurses, Doctors, Teachers and Police are doing a fantastic job and deserve their claps. But there are so many more that we should be thankful for too – Delivery Drivers, Refuse Collection, Butchers, Fruit and Veg shops, the list goes on. Including your local Barista.
So what’s the problem?
This is not a political blog but I feel really let down by the government this week. They have achieved some great feats during the pandemic but they have done several things disastrously wrong too. I won’t go into all of them, just one – their communication with the public and business.
From their timing and contradictions to confusing rules that even they break – it has been a bit of a masterclass in what not to do from our Government. It seems they have to point a finger and now it’s Coffees turn.
First, it was the pubs and restaurants, despite the government paying (yes that’s right – paying!) for people to go and ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. They then tied the industries hands behind their backs, before closing them down completely – many sadly will not reopen.
Now it seems to be Coffees turn to share the blame. If the rumours of their latest advertising campaign are to be believed: “Don’t let a coffee cost lives” is the slogan.
How we are keeping people safe?
People gathering outside a coffee shop is a problem and it does need addressing. It is the same problem as in parks, supermarkets and several other places too. It is people not following the rules and I am personally pleased to see the police finally trying to enforce them – as confusing as they may be to some.
Businesses are also doing all they can and are working hard to make sure people are safe too. Now I am generalising here but most coffee shops, like many other businesses who are adapting to survive, have gone through extraordinary measures to ensure we are operating safely.
- The rent and bills still need to be paid and although some shops received grants, others did not (same as with pubs and restaurants). Confusingly, the bigger the shop and the more they need to pay, the less support they get.
- We have been told we can stay open throughout the entire pandemic and as such if we do close voluntarily, we risk losing our customer base to local competition which may lead to closing permanently;
- We’ve had to adapt like everyone else. Introducing new workflows, new queuing systems, much stricter cleaning routines, integrate online ordering and Click & Collect, getting masks for all staff, screens to give them protection from the customers – all at our own expense.
- Not every customer follows the rules. The public is mostly doing their part. Yet some still refuse to wear a mask (simply because they don’t want to) and then don’t understand why we don’t allow them to come in. We have a good relationship with our local police team (one of them used to be our Head Barista) but they are up against it too meaning we are expected to police the public outside of our shop.
- The staff travel in (mostly on public transport) every day. Last month TfL was used over 3 times as much as it was during April-May last year and we all remember what that looked like. How would you feel about using public transport daily now?
Now, staying at home is important! But getting fresh air, some exercise and seeing other people (at a distance with a mask) is also important. The mental health impact of this is going to be tough and coffee is not a picnic in the park!!
Many of our customers only go out once a day and the only social interaction they have is with us. That 60-90 second interaction, is a chance for them to talk to someone real, to smile, to laugh, to complain. To have a slither of normality and hope restored is important, even if only for a fleeting moment.
We serve Police, Teachers (one of my old school teachers is a regular), Nurses, Doctors, Moms, Dads and all those now working from home. They need a break in their day, a caffeine fix, that sweet treat to cheer them up, with a little social interaction too. They look forward to it and we all need something to look forward to. Especially now!
Coffee shops are not just about coffee, the same way pubs are not just about alcohol. They are a place for the community. A place to escape, even if just for a brief moment. A place to remind you what we are fighting this virus for.
What needs to be done
Visiting your local coffee shop may be the only time you interact with someone today but the staff, masked up and behind screens, are interacting with up to 200+ people every day. We love the support we get from the local community, it keeps us going to, but please do be responsible and don’t gather outside your local coffee shop too.
There a lot of people working long hours to keep the world turning right now. Coffee helps them do that and gives a glimmer of hope to everyone else. The government needs to recognise this and instead of demonising various sectors of industry, support them. Enforce the rules, sure but positive reinforcement of business works better than punishment and blame.
A group of coffee shop owners that I am in have recently started promoting the hashtag #coffeekeepsusgoing and it does! The sleepy delivery driver or overworked nurse, the mom at home trying to teach three kids whilst keeping up with her day job and the lonely, scared and depressed neighbour who hasn’t seen anyone else all week. It’s a lifeline and we need those right now.
This is a tough time for everyone but most people are in a very different boat to that of the government.
Help us help you. Support your local coffee shop but be sensible and follow the rules too.