This is the story of how our cafe manager, Ben, closed the cafe, opened a grocers and has now created a platform for the public to help support NHS workers at King's College.
March 2020 will always be remembered. It was a month of dramatic changes and many losses. People went from the hustle-and-bustle of the tube every day and regular daily routines to being on lockdown, bound to their houses. March 2020 will also mark a turning point in many businesses’ histories where they were forced to adapt, innovate and find new ways of collaborating to help each other and their communities.
This has been a difficult experience for us as a predominantly wholesale business at Volcano Coffee Works but there have been numerous silver linings. We wanted to share one such story of how Ben Sibley, our cafe manager created a grocery delivery service that is supplying the ‘locally locked-down’ but is also giving back to the NHS for the estimable work they’re doing to preserve public health and safety.
Government directives restricted usual service at Volcano Coffee Works Cafe but it was the responsibility we felt to our local community that pushed us to close the cafe indefinitely. We felt that if we didn’t then when we would look back on this time, we wouldn’t be able to tell ourselves we had done the right thing. So, on Friday 20th March we closed our doors.
In the days leading up to that, planning had begun on a grocery home delivery service. The feedback we received from regular customers had been positive when mentioning our plan during brief chats over the coffee machine. We also had the supplier relationships and the facilities in place to hit the ground running as soon as the cafe closed.
After many hours on the phone talking to our suppliers, a few days of number-crunching, and the support of Volcano colleagues, Tom, Lydia, Anna, and many others, Ben launched the Volcano Coffee Works Grocery five days later on Wednesday 25th March.
The temporary grocery would utilize our existing wholesale supply network (still operational) to bundle together and deliver high-quality fresh fruit, veg, coffee and breakfast ingredients to families who aren’t able to access supermarkets or are consciously remaining in the home. In addition, it would provide a platform to support A&E workers at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill.
We took almost 100 orders in the first 48 hours of launching and from our Beadman st Roastery in West Norwood have been able to continue providing the local community with the essentials they need. Last week we were able to use our grocery distribution to donate 250l of cold brew coffee to the thirsty NHS staff!
Donations (received via the website) are being used to supply fresh food, bottled water, and other much-needed items to the A&E staff at King’s College. We’re also communicating with staff daily to understand how the support can be flexible and change as what’s needed shifts.
If you’d like to contribute and help us support the NHS for as long as possible we are receiving donations via the website here.
Ben would like to thank everyone who has been supportive of the “new” business thus far and thank you for all the kind words from 2 meters away and for your patience while we smoothened out our service. Who knew how confusing South London addresses could be?
We will continue to operate with the highest levels of hygiene and safety, for as long as you need us.You can check out the Volcano Coffee Works Grocery here.
Grocery updates and special offers are posted via the café Instagram - @volcano_cafe.
*All the orders placed before 3 pm are delivered the next day, and we deliver during the week from Monday to Friday, so we can take time and recharge on the weekend in order to start all over again on Monday with a smile on our face.