Wednesday 20 January 2021 1:23 pm

Corona Impact Series: How a Tower Bridge pie 'n mash chain weathered the Covid storm

In this series, City A.M. looks at the financial and economic impact of the ongoing pandemic on a range of small and medium-sized businesses across London. Today: how a small pie & mash chain in Tower Bridge turned up the fire during three lockdowns.

M.Manze has been in Tower Bridge for nearly 119 years

M.Manze Pie and Mash’s flagship shop is in Tower Bridge, one of three across London. Since its opening in 1902, it has weathered all the storms that more than a century in business can bring.

Our family business has had more than its fair share of challenges over the last 119 years. We have endured the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, World Wars I and II, the Great Depression,  the Brixton Riots, during which our Peckham shop burned down, the Global Financial Crisis and now Covid-19,”  Emma Harrington, director of M.Manze, tells City A.M.

During the first lockdown, M.Manze continued to serve takeaways and expanded its offering by adding hot meals.

“We’ve offered chilled online delivery for 15 years but lockdown was, you could say, the catalyst for our hot local delivery service,” said Harrington. 

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Second lockdown

Although staying traditional is a key part of the business, M.Manze had no choice but to embrace technology as its business was forced to move online. “Xero is the perfect example as it allows us to streamline processes and see important business data at any time via the cloud-based software,” Harrington explained.

During lockdown 2, M.Manze rolled out an overnight chilled delivery service, all over the UK via courier. It asked its staff to work longer hours and the company increased its deliveries to five days a week, rather than the previous three.

Nationwide, there seemed to be a healthy appetite for M.Manze’s dishes. “What we wanted is for an ex-Londoner to get pie and mash delivered to their door, wherever they live in the UK,” Harrington said.

As the second lockdown matured, Harrington and her team increasingly worried how they could keep all of their staff paid and in work.

Read more: Corona Impact Series: A Shoreditch paper goods supplier forced to move online

New service model

Additional challenges where introduced to keep up with the new regulations to ensure the shops remained Covid-secure.

The traditional way of service in Harrington’s shops was to queue up, order and pay for food at the counter, wait no more than 30 seconds and then walk to an available spot at a table with your cutlery, a drink of traditional sarsaparilla and plate of pie and mash. 

“Unfortunately, due to Covid our traditional way of service was no longer viable so we had to make significant changes, including table service, payments at the table, wrapping up cutlery and takeaways through the windows,” she said.

All of this added on a significant amount of time, also since M.Manze decided to expand its opening hours in order to keep up revenues.

“We haven’t opened in the evenings since 1945, so this was a big step for us,” Harrington said. “We split the shifts between the staff who were willing and passionate about the new plan of action.”

The third lockdown has only strengthened M.Manze’s determination to keep going. In fact, Harrington and her team plan to employ more staff for when they are allowed to open for eat-ins after lockdown.

“It is very important for us to keep traditions going having a business that survived through two World Wars and now another epidemic gives you the passion to keep it alive,” she concluded.

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Due to Covid M.Manze’s traditional way of service was no longer viable so it had to make significant changes