Case study: 'We've lost £70-80,000 of revenue and we don't know if that's going to come back'
The hospitality sector has faced the double blow of COVID-19 and Brexit, but the industry will continue to fight every obstacle in its path to play its part in Scotland’s economic recovery.
The family-run Edinburgh Butter Company was founded in 2018, supplying to hotels, restaurants and cafes.
When hospitality was closed, the company lost its main client base and has subsequently lost around £70-80,000 of revenue.
“We have been heavily impacted,” says Nick Sinclair, who founded the company with his wife Hilary. “The difficulty for us is that while we are relatively confident that people like Roy from Ondine will come back to us, we are kind of working off the basis that 50 per cent of our previous client base either won’t return to business or if they do return, they won’t be looking to spend money on a premium product like ours.”
While the Ratho-based company received an initial £10,000 grant and a further grant of £1,400 in November, it hasn’t been able to benefit from any other financial packages.
“My mindset used to be that we have done really well to survive over the course of the nine months, however come October when things really started to bite again, my mindset switched to look, we have actually lost £70-80,000 of revenue and we don’t know when or if that’s going to come back.”
Sinclair says that while he is disappointed his company didn’t qualify for more financial support during the pandemic, it is essential that the Scottish Government provides the correct support to help businesses survive and thrive in the future.
He adds: “What I’m focussing on is long-term continued growth and stability for our business and giving back to the local economy, that’s all I really care about.”
'COVID was the grit and with unbelievably hard work and imagination, maybe we're turned it into a little pearl'
Before the pandemic, The Ethical Shellfish Company, run by Guy Grieve and Juliet Knight, was supplying the UK’s top restaurants, hotels, wholesalers and chefs, with Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc among its customers.
In the space of 11 years, the company had gone from taking 300 hand-dived scallops to the market to taking out 10,000 a week.
When COVID hit, the business was obliterated, with the hospitality industry forced to close its doors.
“In three days we went from that figure each week, to zero. It was a nightmare. There was no furlough for us, it was a very, very bad situation to be involved in.”
But Grieve and his business partner realised that there was in fact an opportunity to turn things around and save the business by taking their products to the people who would normally be enjoying their fresh produce in restaurants.
“We realised there was hope by going to the people who were going to the restaurants.
“We said, I wonder if we could treat our customers as if they were Raymond Blanc or Gordon Ramsay or The Ritz, or Claridges. Let’s deliver to them the same way.
“But we thought, let’s not just do scallops, let’s start bringing products by other remote artisan or high quality suppliers who have also lost their hospitality market.
“So we started ‘Ethical Shellfish Company and Friends’.”
The company now not only supplies scallops, lobster, langoustine and other ethically-sourced shellfish, but produce including venison, Highland beef and Isle of Mull cheese, too.
“We’re still applying the ethic that dominates our business,” says Grieve. “We would rather close our business down than deal in dredged scallops, for example.
“Curiously, a lot of suppliers have heard of us, they’ve respected what we’ve done with scallops so the door was kind of half-open for the conversations we’re having with farmers fishermen, everything.
“We’re never going to stop delivering direct to people because it’s been just so beautiful. But we never forget our chefs because it’s our chefs that made our business and as soon as they come back, we’re there for them.
“I suppose we could say COVID was the grit and with unbelievably hard work and imagination, maybe we’ve turned it into a little pearl.”