Allan Hyslop, co-owner of Newcastle burger joint, Meat:Stack. He tells his story of how the pandemic has affected business from shutting up shop to opening a new one to ensuring staff were taken care of. Reminding us all that we need to do our bit to help keep the North East open and #BeatCovidNE.
Q. How has your business been affected by Covid-19?
Initially we had to close down to catch our breath and assess how the land lay during the first lockdown. After six-weeks we decided to start up a takeaway and delivery service, more just to stay relevant and try to keep the bank balance ticking over. We were due to open our new shop in April 2020 but this got moved back to late July and we managed to get it up and running as the first lockdown eased.
Q. What challenges have you faced?
Just trying to stay in people's minds was the hardest thing to do. We wanted to get back to serving burgers somehow so that we could be remembered for being there during the dark moments of the pandemic. Cash flow was a big problem initially but the grant scheme and furlough helped us keep most of our staff with some kind of income.
Q. What changes have you had to make in response to the pandemic?
With opening the new shop, we have pretty much started from scratch with the pandemic slap-bang in the middle. We still haven’t had a day in the shop that we would call ‘normal’. It is slowly becoming busier and busier, we have learnt as we’ve gone and with each wave we feel more prepared for what must be done. But really, we are just looking forward to getting the shop to be enjoyed as was intended!
Q. How have you and your staff coped during lockdown?
Our staff have been excellent. We actually doubled our workforce during the lockdown and have managed to build a really positive and creative team around us. I think sometimes when we get customers who don’t want to follow the rules in the shop, then they can become a little disheartened, but overall they have all coped incredibly well and professionally.
Q. When people visit you, what will they see that is different now?
We have built an eatery that was intended to be a social space, with an excellent, casual service style and nice vibe being the main objectives to go alongside the awesome food…hopefully, regardless of the pandemic, this is what people can expect when they visit.
Q. What has the response been since reopening?
We have had incredible support from all of our regulars all the way through lockdown and since reopening - it's amazing to see these faces coming back. It has been a long time coming!
Q. Why are you supporting the Keep the North East Open campaign?
For us, it is key that businesses like ours are allowed to get back to a pre-pandemic normal. We rely on people being out and about and meeting each other in social spaces to enjoy themselves. It’s so crucial for so many people that the leisure industry is given a chance to recover as soon as possible, not just for the bars and venues themselves but for all the staff, suppliers and customers who need these services to be open. Also, in terms of mental health, I think people need to see this whole thing going in one direction and a clear path back to seeing their friends and family a lot more.
This is our region, our communities, our local businesses and it’s up to us to look after them. Together we can Keep the North East Open.