Cardiff cafe Bru Coffee and Gelato found new ways to disrupt coffee shop culture after the series of lockdowns and restrictions in Wales threatened its life and legacy. Here’s how.

Business owners have been stretched to their limits during the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on the hospitality industry has been particularly devastating. A report earlier this year suggested that nearly £2 billion had been wiped off the UK coffee shop market value – down 39% from the previous year.

With many hospitality businesses forced to shut their doors, furlough staff and work within strict regulations and restrictions, many have closed permanently or have been left significantly more vulnerable, with massive reductions in income.

However, one Cardiff coffee shop has bucked the trend, excelling in these uncertain times, and has successfully adapted their business to respond to the huge levels of unpredictability that the pandemic presented. Bru Coffee and Gelato, located at Ty Admiral on David Street is now reaping the rewards of the determination that they have shown over the last 18 months.

Store manager, Noman Qaisar explains how being bold and unafraid of change has put them ahead of the competition. 

Bru Cardiff team

Bru Cardiff team

“We carefully selected our Cardiff store due to its fantastic location within a section of the city centre that has multiple sources of potential income ranging from shoppers, students and local businesses. We are also located directly below Admiral Insurance, which had a pre-Covid capacity of circa 3000 employees. Due to the pandemic, all these revenue streams were completely eradicated overnight as non-essential retail was forced to close,” he says.

“Our customers are extremely loyal but we quickly realised that we had to change our approach and become extremely flexible in order to serve their needs and respond to constantly changing government directives.”

“One of our main focuses was to create a sustainable delivery business – this was something that wasn’t necessarily the ‘done thing’ within the world of coffee shops but our head office were really supportive in helping us to develop it by investing in product development and packaging innovations that made a delivery service possible.

“Turning this around at speed was a real challenge – at the beginning I was even doing my own deliveries to extend the delivery range to regular customers living outside of the standard delivery platform radiuses. This also helped to provide a greater personal customer service and interaction with regular customers.”

As non-essential retail was allowed to re-open, new challenges were presented explains Noman. “As covid compliance became such a massive part of our daily duties, we decided it was important to create a brand new role – a Host, which was supported by the government kick-starter scheme.”

The host role ensures that track and trace is implemented effectively and that all tables are cleaned and sanitised before any customer sits down in the store. It has been a great addition to the store and will remain for the foreseeable future, he explains.

Bru Cardiff

The pandemic has forced many businesses to think of innovative ways to remain open and Bru is no exception. Noman explains that another positive change that has come about due to the pandemic has been the relationships developed with other local businesses. “We spent a lot of time talking to other local businesses such as shops within the St David Centre, Motorpoint Arena and Admiral. This opened up new revenue streams and enabled us to attract a wider customer base, which may not have happened previously due to the captive audience that we already had.”

As restrictions begin to ease, Noman is feeling positive that Bru Cardiff will continue to go from strength to strength.

“We’re seeing that customer confidence is increasing and people are enjoying the return to a level of normality, but they are still cautious. We are continuing to be vigilant and do everything that we can to make customers feel safe. There are definite signs of recovery. September should also see significant increases in footfall as Admiral staff return in greater numbers, universities reopen and events at the arena start to increase. All of this additional footfall, coupled with the changes to the business that we have made throughout the past 18 months makes me quietly confident that the future will be bright for Bru Cardiff.”