“We are not closing our doors!” This is what Fran the owner of La Maison Du Kouign-Amann told her family on March 20th, 2020. Like many entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry, Fran and her family very suddenly felt the immediate impact of COVID-19 on their business which fell 90% in the first weeks of the pandemic. At this point the business did not have a clear plan on how to respond but one thing was clear as Fran says: “We knew that closing our business was not an option we wanted to entertain. We knew that in order to survive, we would have to make some radical changes to our business. But one thing that has to be mentioned first and foremost, without a caring and supportive community, none of this would have been possible. We are very blessed to be in such a wonderful community.”
Closing business doors during the pandemic adds more uncertainty to the equation and pushes businesses to square one in their marketing efforts and building trust with customers. This explains why many businesses felt the pressure to pivot their business models entirely. For Fran, the unprecedented transformation seen by the retail industry and people stocking up food supplies, was surprising and at the same time inspiring. In a remarkable show of understanding of our community’s needs, the team behind the success of La Maison Du Kouign-Amann, decided to not only react to changes around them but to be proactive and pivot the business to start offering a wide range of frozen pastries, frozen meals and expanded the range to include all sorts of sweet and savory tarts. Having this frozen section, meant that though the number of customers visits decreased, the spending per visit increased. La Maison Du Kouign-Amann also started a delivery service which was not available prior to this pandemic.
Many of our Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network members know that pivoting and changing a business model takes much more than good ideas and an understanding of the changing consumer behavior. To be creative, agile and to build resiliency to survive, what could be months of uncertainty, means planning, assessing resources and assembling the right teams.
When we asked Fran about the way they managed their resources, she shared with us that behind the scene they worked much more than before. They reassessed staff needs, put together a plan to keep the frozen section always full and created new menu items. La Maison Du Kouign-Amann has seen a lot of success with their frozen section and savory tarts, so they now fill their fridges twice a week. Not only that, because they promised the community to always be creative, Fran comes up with a new dish and recipe every few weeks and once she is convinced that the dish is ready to be offered to her customers she holds a meeting with her staff to introduce them to the new star on the menu.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has a huge impact on the restaurant and food industry, but we also know that reputation is defined during the tough times. Local businesses that continue to add value, listen to their clients and pivot are going to come out of the pandemic stronger than before.