Corona Impact Series: The Walthamstow bakery that was saved by quick thinking and simple tech
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 BREAD is an artisan bakery based in East London, founded in 2013 from a small flat in Walthamstow.
The bakery was the passion project of Alexandre Bettler, who decided to take the plunge and stop the graphic design studio he’d set up 15 years earlier to pursue his dream of owning a sourdough bakery.
Self-taught, Bettler bought a small oven and started a micro-bakery from his flat in Clapton. A rapidly expanding customer base meant the amateur baker soon outgrew the at-home set-up and, with the confidence of regular shoppers, he invested in a bricks and mortar shop front to house the thriving bakery.
In 2016, Bettlerfound the ideal space in Walthamstow Central which offered TODAY BREAD the growing room it needed to expand into a fully-fledged bakery and café.
It also began offering sourdough lessons from the premises, where they taught the art of bread making to a growing base of budding bakers.
Fast forward to 2020 and the bakery faced one of its toughest challenges.
An established local favourite serving up hand-crafted sourdough loaves, pastries and freshly ground coffees every day suddenly had to shut its welcoming shopfront to passers-by.
Thanks to quick thinking and implementation of some simple tech, TODAY BREAD is one of the small businesses that has made it through the pandemic.
When lockdown began a year ago, Bettler had to think quickly about how to adapt the business, to ensure TODAY BREAD could remain open to provide for their local community and vulnerable customers.
Prior to the pandemic, the bakery used Square’s hardware to physically take payments in their shop. When the outbreak hit and they needed to transition to online selling, it was quick and easy to set up an online store with Square, so they could keep providing Walthamstow residents the baked goods they had come to know and love.
“Before the Covid-19 outbreak, we were using Square at TODAY BREAD, so when we needed to pivot fast and easily, it seemed appropriate to sell online with Square. Our team had been baking and delivering non-stop, so moving online was essential to keep up with customer demand,” Bettler shared with City A.M.
“Having got to know our local community well over the years, we realised how important it was to adapt in order to continue serving our most vulnerable customers who couldn’t travel far, or who didn’t want to take the risk of going to big supermarkets – so we expanded our product range to include store cupboard essentials, and we started offering home delivery by bike to local postcodes, as well as launching a click-and-collect service,” the baker remarked.
Digital is essential
TODAY BREAD is a prime example of a new wave of independent small businesses who have embraced digital transformation at the heart of their trade – which gave this bakery the power not only to survive, but to grow.
Moving online empowered Alexandre’s business to continue serving the local community their bread, sweet treats and takeaway coffee – by adopting the click-and-collect style used by many larger companies.
Selling online has been at the core of the bakery business over the last few months, and now restrictions are lifting, the business has a new-found flexibility in how they sell – keeping the online store going, alongside touch free payments in-store to keep their customers safe and at ease.
Loyal customers of the bakery have responded positively to how the small local business continued to serve its community in tough times.
By adopting technology early on, Bettler’s team was able to add a personal touch to every purchase, without a logistical or financial struggle.
The team’s hard work, quick thinking and appetite to adapt to modern technologies showcases the sheer potential of small businesses to adapt and flourish, even in challenging circumstances.