It’s been 12 weeks since we packed down our coffee bar in Old Spitalfields Market and locked the doors of our Broadway Market cafe in preparation for an uncertain lockdown. In the months since, the way we operate as a business has been turned upside down. Lockdown led us to brew at home, shop online and hospitality businesses have shifted their offerings to be consumed at home, operating covid-proof takeaway and delivery services and providing services to help key workers and the more vulnerable. Climpson’s Arch has been roasting green to brown throughout, adapting to the changing situation as we go and adding some new collector’s edition packaging on the way.
After a period of constant unknowns, it’s been a reassuring moment of comfort to return to our home on Broadway Market. We catch up with our Roastery Operations Manager Emily as well as our Cafe Manager Joel on how they’ve created a safe environment for the team to work in, adjusting to a new physically distanced way of life. We’ve also got some practical tips on getting a machine started again, and looking after your coffee equipment after a break.
Our Roastery Operations Manager Emily, master of systems and queen of health and safety, has been working through our current procedures to covid-proof Climpsons and keep the team healthy and happy. Here’s her thoughts on re-opening.
How did you go about conducting a risk assessment for the business?
I started by looking at previous risk assessments that we had done in the past. Then I brought into consideration a lot of our employee’s current concerns about their own safety. I looked at how we could be a covid-free workplace, and maintain the safety of our customers at the same time.
What sort of concerns did the team have?
Their main concerns have been about people from outside Climpsons, and their interactions with our workplace and how do we facilitate being able to operate as a business, while still remaining at a safe social distance? So we’ve been developing systems so that we can maintain social distancing during work hours. We have a way of receiving orders, and having our own orders collected where one person is nominated to take and send orders.
What other steps have you put in place to help facilitate distancing at work?
We’ve moved some of the stations around, so 1 person can be on the packing machine and maintain social distancing from whoever is picking webshop orders. Then we’ve got different stations for each task at hand in the roastery, we rotate throughout the day and sanitise each workstation at the beginning of each person’s time at that station. Using antiviral wipes on any touch pads, portafilters, anything that would be touched with non-sterile hands.
What’s your advice on PPE?
PPE is only as good as the people that are wearing it. If you’re not washing your hands, and then you’re putting gloves on, it defeats the purpose of PPE. So it’s using PPE for it’s directed use, and then changing it frequently.
What’ve been some of the challenges of coming back to work?
Where do I begin? It’s been hard to learn how to conduct meetings through a screen. It’s been hard to remember to ask other people to do things, rather than just coming into a work space and doing it myself. But it’s good to be back and I think that we’re ready to be back in full swing.
What advice would you give to others reopening businesses post lockdown?
My number 1 advice is always take a lunch break - and don’t look at your phone. Find a quiet, socially distanced spot outside. Otherwise with risk assessments, I would recommend the government guidance on conducting your own. And having open ears to what your employee’s concerns are - every concern is valid. Never be afraid to ask others to move away from your space. Safety has become everyone’s responsibility.
We’ve also caught up with Cafe Manager Joel. You’ll find him pulling shots behind the KB90 on Broadway Market or keeping business running smoothly in Old Spitalfields Market. Here’s his thoughts on re-opening a cafe after lockdown and how to keep safe social distancing in a super tight space.
Welcome back! How does it feel to be back in the full swing of cafe life?
Feels great to finally be back in the cafe and serving the community again. There’s been a lot of happy faces to see us back open. Really good to have the whole team back together and everyone seems to be happy to be back.
What changes have you made since lock down?
We made quite a few adjustments to make sure it was safe for our team to return to work and also safe for our customers when queuing outside. We installed a new service hatch in the window for the customer collection point. It means customers can queue on one side of the cafe and collect on the other to save a big crowd building. We also moved our coffee machine to the other side of the cafe, closer to the window, to make sure service is as smooth and efficient as possible.
What have you done to make a safe working environment for the team?
The adjustments made to the outside of the cafe, service hatch etc, meant that we had a lot more space inside to ensure we kept our distance. We also provided the appropriate PPE. We have masks that must be worn on every shift. There’s also hand soap available and hand sanitiser to make sure we’re also on top of personal hygiene. We have designated stations - 1 person on till, 1 pulling shots, 1 steaming milk and 1 as ‘bar back’. Each person is a safe distance from each other. The bar back position helps keep service flowing as smoothly as possible - grabbing pastries, grinding beans, keeping batch brews topped up.
Any advice for others making plans to re-open their doors?
The priority for ourselves was to make sure our team feel safe at work. If there’s a way of making more space inside your cafe that’d be a good start. Look at the most efficient way of working to ensure customers are served as quickly and as safely as possible.
Have you got any tips for restarting your coffee machine?
Several weeks is quite a long time for an espresso machine to sit cold and idle. Some parts that are used to being hot and moving can sometimes play up. Well looked after machinery that was properly prepared for the shut-down should be fine, but even then, there are some things to look out for when you restart.
Heating up - Turn on the water supply, open one of the steam wands, then switch on the power at the wall and at the machine switch. Close the open steam wand once it’s finished auto-filling. Stay close to your machine during the 15 minute heating period, keeping an eye out for any unusual leaks, sounds or smells.
Flushing - Run all groups for at least two minutes, taking care not to overflow the drain box or waste bucket! Open each steam wand for at least one minute – check that the steam smells clean, not tainted by old milk. Empty at least two litres of water from the hot tap. Season the machine by brewing and discarding at least one espresso though each group.
Check out the government advice on staying safe at work during covid here.