Q&A with Bad Brownie: postal treats, corporate orders, and thoughts on the future
Paz from Bad Brownie sheds light on the impact of lockdown and how the business has pivoted in order to cater to the 'new normal'.
During our webinar on The Future of Food at Work we spoke to Paz from Bad Brownie. As part of our vendor panel discussion, Paz talked about the impact of COVID-19 on Bad Brownie and the hospitality industry as a whole, as well as what might be in store for the future. Here's a snippet of our Q&A:
Tell us a little bit about Bad Brownie.
Me and my business partner Morag set up Bad Brownie about seven years ago - time does fly! Bad Brownie is effectively a producer of the most amazing chocolate brownies. Morag and I both love food and we love chocolate more than anything, so that’s what inspired us to set it up. Since we started we’ve done more than 450 flavours!
Prior to COVID, we were selling brownies across a store in Canary Wharf, we were doing corporate orders through City Pantry, selling through our website, and we did food markets too. Anywhere we could be, we were there! It’s been a fantastic journey so far.
How has lockdown affected your business?
The only way I can really describe it is as being a roller coaster - it’s just been up and down right from the beginning. There’s been really some very distinct phases.
In the first few days, Morag and I were terrified. Overnight we saw all of our corporate orders being cancelled, we saw our wholesale orders being cancelled because cafes shut, we had our shop in Canary Wharf closed, our food markets closed, and all the festivals for the whole year cancelled. That was pretty frightening.
But on the plus side, we had our online business, which had only accounted for about a fifth of the company previously. Suddenly we saw that increase and pick up quite dramatically and quite quickly. It started with Mother’s Day and everyone was sending out gifts because they couldn’t be with their loved ones. From there it increased for a couple of months, peaking in May, and then it plateaued and has come down a bit.
In the beginning, it was people buying for themselves and their friends because we can send the brownies all over the country overnight. More recently, we’ve noticed lots more companies coming to us saying that they want to find a way of sending something out to their team.
Have you noticed any changes since lockdown was eased?
We’ve seen the road traffic get worse! I used to be able to drive into work in 40 minutes, now it takes twice as long.
In addition to that, we have seen a very distinct shift. When lockdown was in full swing, it was mainly personal customers coming to us and sending gifts saying “happy birthday, sorry I can’t be there” etc.. But since lockdown’s eased and people are seeing each other a lot more, those orders have died down a bit.
But what really has taken off is the corporate orders. There are certain elements of office culture that are quite subtle and something like drinks on a Friday night or watercooler moments are just gone for the majority of companies.
What we’ve realised is that lots of companies are embracing the fact that they need to make their employees feel connected somehow. So, they’re using our brownies, amongst other things, with messages from the CEO or HR teams saying “thank you so much for your patience during this time”, “thanks for working so hard”, “here’s a little something to remind you that we’re all in it together”. We’ve definitely seen that ramp up quite a bit in comparison to how it was before.
What are your predictions for the future? Do you think the hospitality industry will bounce back or do you think this is a gradual climb?
I think it’s in the middle. I don’t think the situation will go back to how it was before - at least certainly not for several months. There’s going to be so much uncertainty, there’s going to be so much responsibility in terms of duty of care.
But everyone is pivoting where they can. There are just going to be some changes. The desire is still there - people want to be fed, people want to go out, people want to socialise. They just have to learn how to do it in a very different way.
It’s not going to bounce back to exactly the same scenario as it was before, but gradually it will come back in terms of value. It is going to be tricky and it’s going to be a lot of finding your way through this situation.
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