65 days have already passed since the re-opening of our café. Our original opening in early March is already 130 days in the past! So it is time to look back.
Closing our new café after just 9 days was, of course, unexpected. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody expected this virus to show up and change all our plans. So like everyone, we were surprised. During the days before the lockdown, we'd adjusted our behaviour, washed and disinfected our hands until they hurt from dryness and thought about what we would do if we'd really have to shut our doors. After the Swiss government's press conference it was clear. From one day to the other, everything was different. We tried really hard to stick to our schedule during the refurbishment of the café so that we were able to open on time. That whole pressure was gone after opening the café, and even more so, after closing it again.
So we shut our doors. And we put our thoughts into how to operate with to go coffee only for the coming weeks. We gave ourselves a few days to think about it. Our first plan was to open for a couple of hours each day to enable the people working in the area a coffee break. Soon it was clear, though, that this wouldn't make sense. Offices were empty, people were sent home to work remotely. And the efforts required to keep up the to go business for just a handful of cups sold per day would not have been justifiable. The few people passing by would not look for coffee in a to go cup, either. No, the solution was a different one: People needed coffee at home!
Our specialty coffee online store had been operating since 2018 so it did not take long for us to realize this was the ideal channel to bring our coffee to the coffee drinker's homes in these times. We printed a sign for the window, explained our situation and quickly noticed a sharp rise in online orders. This was our solution to make it through the difficult beginning of this time. We adjusted our online store operations slightly by roasting and delivering daily, delivering orders ourselves by bicycle or by foot in the neighbourhood. We were also able to ship all other orders in and around Bern by bicycle messenger instead of the Post.
Of course this was a difficult time for us. And of course a big part of the expected revenue was not coming in. Of course we were disappointed because we had to close our newly opened café right after opening. But people's health is more important. And despite everything, we can also take away positive aspects from this crisis. It gave us the opportunity to analyse the first nine days of operation and improve workflows. We had time to plan and calculate our roasting capacity and coffee usage more accurately and create structures that can be used in the future. We were able to do extensive research, e.g. on new roasting machines and we were able to get a ton of other things done.
This crisis is terrible first and foremost for everyone who is directly affected. However, we believe, there are also positive aspects for our society. The crisis has shown how small and unimportant our daily problems are. It has given us the opportunity to think about ourselves and about how privileged we are. It has shown us that we are capable of reacting as a society. And it has shown weaknesses and opportunities for change. But this is not over yet. One has the impression that people have had enough of it. Enough of the numbers in the news every day, talking about infection numbers instead of sports results – via video call, notwithstanding. People have had enough of the special measures, enough of the virus. Unfortunately, it is crucial to remain careful, to minimize the risks in order to avoid further suffering. It will take a long time until we can sit completely relaxed, close together in bars and cafés and enjoy life without any restrictions and fear of an infection.
Since May 11th, our café has been open with normal hours again. The first two weeks were very quiet, not many people were outside. Since the end of May, however, we've noticed a steady increase. During this initial phase, it's been important for us to figure out peak hours, which has not been easy at all. During the first few weeks, we've seen a lot of people enjoying a beer or glass of wine after work in the evening sun, then a peak during 9 o'clock break was noticeable (maybe the 50% returning to their offices after home office?). And finally, an increased demand for espresso or flat whites after lunch was registered. Of course, the weather plays a huge role too. One thing is certain: It will remain interesting and diverse.
In any case, we are happy about every day on which we can serve you a cup of coffee and we give our best to comply with distance rules, to wash our hands all day, disinfect door handles, clean tables, and so on. We hope we can offer you a little bit of normality and coziness at our café – despite the special measures.