Bridges to Better Business Resilience and Pivots workshops started on Monday, October 26, at 9:00 am with the Restaurant Industry Panel. This workshop explored how two restaurants who served different clientele were resilient and made quick pivots to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic effects. Our first guest speaker was Jo-Ann Houle, owner of Cup of Jo’s, who explained how they changed in their business plan to offer their new service Family Meal Boxes’. Our second guest was Rizwan Mustafa, owner of Sheep Head Bistro, explained how they went from serving a specific clientele to opening up to a broader market by offering their unique takeout menu.
Cup of Jo’s
Cup of Jo’s is a cozy café set in an old stone house in Winchester, ON. Before the covid-19 pandemic, they served coffee, all-day breakfast, lunch and sweet treats.
When stores were closed in March due to the pandemic emergency orders, Jo-Ann Houle, the Cup of Jo’s owner, knew she needed to make a drastic change to her business. Since closing the café was not feasible even for a couple of days, she and her staff connected with their following on Facebook and started asking questions to find out more about what her clients were looking for from the local businesses. They then put their ideas on Facebook and asked if their following would support them. The feedback they received was outstanding! Jo-Ann and her husband decided to take a leap with their new business plan and try it for a few weeks. Launching Cup of Jo’s new service, Jo’s Family Meal Boxes.
Jo’s Family Meal Boxes developed from the idea of providing restaurant-quality meals to consumers to create on their own at home. Ingredients for these kits are measured precisely so clients can make the perfect dinner at home, with no waste and no fuss. All the produce and many of the ingredients are from local businesses such as Winchester’s Foodland. Cup of Jo’s received orders through Facebook messaging. Cup of Jo’s received a tremendous response from their community for this new offer.
Jo’s Family Meal Boxes’ orders quickly outgrew the Facebook messaging, and it became apparent that an eCommerce website was needed to meet the demand. Jo-Ann and her husband began researching online for platforms that would work best for them. This led them to the creation of Jo’s Family Meal Boxes website where consumers can order meal kits and buy bags of Cup of Jo’s Coffee and merchandise.
Due to the limited indoor dining capacity, Cup of Joe’s remains closed to the public. They continue to offer their meal kits and other products on e-commerce. But thanks to Jo-Ann’s quick pivot on their Cup of Jo’s business model, we will continue to enjoy the excellent coffee and perfect dinners.
Sheep’s Head Bistro
Sheep Head Bistro, owned by Rizwan Mustafa, is a modern restaurant that focuses on high quality. Before COVID-19, they were a dine-in only restaurant that served a specific clientele, but this changed during the pandemic.
When restaurants were closed in March due to the pandemic, Rizwan began researching how other restaurants had adapted their procedures to continue to offer their meals to the public. Specifically, Rizwan examined how restaurants in Europe had adapted. His answer was takeout. Working alongside his Executive Chef, they quickly started working out menu items that would transport well to consumers’ homes and be cheaper in pricing to open up to a broader market. They also had to figure out how to keep their food high quality. When they were ready, they started posting on Social Media to spread the word.
From there, to keep their consumers’ interest, they decided to change the menu options every few weeks. They went from Italian-style dinner for two to a Chinese food combo a couple of weeks later. Week after week, they saw an increase in people coming to try their unique menu options.
Later, as businesses started re-opening, Sheep Head Bistro received permission to open a patio for the first time. Today, Sheep’s Head Bistro is proud to offer all three options; dine-in, patio dining, and takeout for those still cautious about dining out.
To hear more stories like these, be sure to tune in the rest of the week to Bridges to Better Business Industry Panels hosted in partnership by Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, and Cornwall & the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation. On Wednesday, October 28, we will be highlighting how local business owners in the Retail Industry Sector overcame the challenges presented by COVID-19. You will have the opportunity to listen to the experiences of the owners of The Happy Popcorn Co, Mrs. B’s Gifts & Home Décor, and The Finch Market and engage with them in a Q&A.
Click here to view the entire week’s schedule and register. Registration is required. The first 35 people to register per Industry Panel will automatically win one $10.00 Tim Horton’s gift card, courtesy of our Breakfast Sponsor, Tim Horton’s. A special thank you goes out to all of our sponsors who helped make these week-long workshops possible: Tim Horton’s, Eastern Ontario Training Board, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, McDonald, Duncan, Dore LLP Law Office, and Business Development of Bank of Canada.