On Friday 20th March 2020, the UK government took the unprecedented step of ordering all pubs, clubs and restaurants to shut down due to coronavirus. On Monday 23rd March, the whole country was put into lockdown with all non-essential travel banned. These were absolutely necessary steps that have had a huge and immediate impact on all aspects of our lives. This story has been replicated across the world.
My name is Steve West and I have been running my own bakery business in North Wales since 2007, called The Pudding Compartment. Specialising in cakes and desserts, we have been supplying the food service industry since 2013. In early 2020, our 25 team members were creating around 40,000 handmade sweet treats each week and sending them to pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, travel hubs and iconic venues in all corners of the UK. Annual sales hit £1M for the first time in early March 2020.
On 23rd March 2020, The Pudding Compartment’s sales dropped to zero – overnight.
The UK and Welsh governments have stepped in quickly: the furlough scheme, government loan guarantees and grants will provide a shot at survival. But there are still bills to pay and, for food businesses, what will happen to all of the ingredients, packaging, work-in-progress and finished goods that are now unwanted?
Having watched in awe how engineering factories were swapping their production to making ventilators, I asked myself whether there was anything I could do to help. I contacted a school friend who works in a large regional hospital dealing with urgent cases:
‘We are only a small bakery, but how can we help you?’ This is what she said:
Often in our job you never know when you are going to eat next, so a quick burst of energy from a snack bar is just what you need - for instance, yesterday I left for work just after 7 , I was scrubbed until gone half 2 so didn’t eat or drink until nearly 3.
So, here is the plan, and I need your help to make this happen:
I set up a new social enterprise business called 'A Million Thanks' on Easter Sunday 2020. We will offer to buy surplus ingredients and snacks from struggling bakeries and food service wholesalers around the country at wholesale or discounted prices, which will help them pay their bills and hopefully survive.
We will re-bag the ingredients into smaller bags, and offer them for sale to customers stuck at home on lock down and struggling to source basic ingredients such as flour and sugar.
We will offer three sets of products:
1. Baking Box kits, which will include the pre-weighed ingredients and instructions needed to make delicious sweet treats at home, ideal for less experienced bakers.
2. Ingredient Packs, which will help keen home bakers source those ingredients that are becoming hard to find in the supermarkets just now.
3. Treat Packs, containing ready-made, individually packaged sweet treats, a perfect pick-me-up to treat yourself or as a gift for someone else.
Pricing will be similar to branded supermarket prices for basic ingredients such as flour and sugar.
As a special thank you, all of the profit will be used to buy and distribute delicious treats to our amazing front line workers to give them a quick energy boost to help them through their shift.
We have an ambitious target - we want to say ‘THANK YOU’ a MILLION times by donating a million energy-boosting treats to front line staff.