Peterborough Matters visits: Bean Around - and hears of challenges cafes face

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We used the opportunity to catch up with the owner Gareth Norman on how things have been for this family-run cafe, and he was candid in talking about challenging times ahead as prices soar  

Gareth said: “We are grateful we have regular customers. 

“The challenge with Peterborough is that people don’t get up in the morning and think 'Where should we go? Let's go with Peterborough'. Despite the tremendous potential the city has to offer including parks, bowling alleys, ice rinks, the cathedral, loads of villages to walk round. That’s something as a city we need to work on. 

“In that respect, we see the same faces regularly. So, that’s a challenge – we need to work to get more, new customers to the town centre. 

“Going forward, times do look challenging, because of everything that’s gone up – our packaging has doubled in price, commodity coffee is going up, all the raw material is going up. 

"The fear is – what's the end game?.Certain establishments are charging £5 for a large latte with oat milk. That's more than a pint of beer. 

“The average minimum spend in a pub is £15. But for a coffee shop is £5. In a pub you would have a few drinks, but in a coffee shop, unless you are here for a day’s work, you would have just one coffee. For such industries, it’s difficult. 

“You can understand why they are charging so much- energy bills are going up , everything is going up, the tax man takes a pound away from you – so what do you do? 

“It’s a hard place to be in – and that biggest issue is where do you stop? You can’t keep putting the prices up each week. 

“And a big challenge is going to be to find the disposable income for customers.  

“As a customer you need to make important decisions now - do you have coffe like you used to, or save it as a Friday treat and use that money towards groceries? Businesses like us will be the first to be hit."

Gareth and team were one of the first to embrace the café culture in Cathedral Square and hopes to continue with it– in-fact he hopes to make it a better, more inviting space for his customers. 

He has constantly tried to adapt, to ensure his business stays afloat amid challenging times brought in by the pandemic. 

Gareth added: “We introduced evening timings. But it fizzled out due to Covid. All our bookings got cancelled. And now it’s because of lack of disposable income that it’s not going as planned. 

“I did a vegan stand along with the Vegan event, but there’s a cost associated with it. Some of the items that we were getting in were three times more expensive. Again, there’s not enough drive for us to expand the menu yet. We are keeping a few vegan items on the menu. But it’s a challenge. There's just not enough footfall for it. 

“We have got an orange juice machine in now – thinking it would be a success. The machine alone cost £1300. We sold two or three juices I spend £90 on a box of oranges. So again, not great. 

“It’s a challenging time. Without the footfall, it’s going to be a long time before we can even break even with the new ideas. 

“I feel like we are lucky and unlucky both that we are in this location. 

“The university is coming and we hope things will pick up. With families staying here and using Peterborough as a base to travel around. Our train network is amazing. So, we really hope people take advantage of it and help boost the city's economy.

“From this time, a year later might cost us about £50,000 extra to run the business.” 

He is also a prominent member of the Business Investment District (BID). 

Talking about his expectations, he said: “I am hoping for footfall from the BID. That’s the biggest thing it can do is to drive footfall. It will be challenging especially as council doesn't have any money. 

“Whatever decisions are made; you are never going to be a fan to everyone. The challenge is to find a best option that majority of the people like and others will have to get along with as long as it steers us in a direction of more people in the town centre. 

“There’s a lot of chat about introducing sustainable parking – if you spend some money in the centre, you could get a refund for your parking. But it’s all about attracting more people.”