Bringing bakers back to business
As lockdown measures start to ease, Scottish Bakers, the industry organisation with over 200 bakery members Scotland-wide, has published “Coronavirus: Guide to Operational Best Practice” to help bakers re-open or increase their activities safely.
Chief Executive Alasdair Smith said, "The Coronavirus pandemic brought unprecedented pressures to bear on our Scottish Bakers members as restrictions on the economy took effect. While the majority of our members were able to continue production during this time, we know many closed completely or limited production because of the challenges of implementing the required social distancing measures and concern for the wellbeing of their staff and customers.
"The sector has been hard hit despite its vital role in preparing fresh bread and bakery products daily. The sector employs 12,000 across Scotland and at the height of the lockdown, 80% of members had furloughed staff with many also simply closed for business.
"Our research through this crisis indicated around a third of all bakery shops & all bakery cafes were at one point closed across Scotland. Many more bakers fear they will be unable to continue trading or remain viable for much longer despite access to Government support and it is against this backdrop that we are launching our guide today.
“As restrictions begin to ease, more of our members are looking to re-start or increase production and retail operations which is why we’ve brought together the essential elements of the official advice and guidance into this document for members.”
The Guide to Operational Best Practice has been compiled to help bakers “Plan, Prepare and Pilot” their approach to restarting or increasing production and retail operations in a way that ensures they are doing everything possible to limit the spread of Coronavirus.
One baker who will be making use of the guide is the incoming Scottish Bakers president and owner of family firm Murray's of Perth, Linda Hill.
Linda said, "As it became obvious that we were going to go into lockdown, I knew I was going to have to act fast. I had two staff go off as they were worried, they had symptoms so they self-isolated and then I had another two shielding with health conditions, so we didn't get off to a great start.
"I was worried for my staff and my own family so I was already thinking about whether I could stay open in the situation that was going on around us. I had talked to the staff as I knew that if a full lockdown went into place, we might have to close to keep staff and customers safe, but luckily, I was able to hold out until the furlough scheme was announced. My staff were supportive even though they were prepared to work through but when I talked to them about closing, I think they were relieved as well.
"Our last Tuesday of trading brought us a busy day up until mid-afternoon when it became obvious the streets were deserted. I would never have thought at that point I would still be closed 10 weeks later!
"The first few weeks we were closed were hard with money worries at the forefront, and whilst our Small Business Grant money was paid quickly the furlough payments from the government didn't come through for another 8 weeks. My staff are paid weekly so at this point there was plenty of money going out with nothing coming in which led to some seriously stressful moments.
"We have a Murrays staff What’s App group to keep in touch and to keep them abreast of the situation which has seen the lockdown extend through April, May and into June. All this while we have been sourcing suitable PPE such as visors and masks, as well as signage and stickers for the floor. We’ve really appreciated the regular updates throughout this from Scottish Bakers with all the relevant information on reopening and on our responsibilities and the latest guide for safe operations is a really essential resource.
"We have been using our time to do some basic maintenance in the bakery and at the shop and to invest in some new equipment for our future plans.
"And we have decided to reopen the week of the 15th June. On the Monday and Tuesday there will be a deep clean of the bakery and shop as well as staff training at intervals to ensure they all know their responsibilities and how things were going to have to work moving forward in this new normal. We will only be bringing back 1/3 of our staff to start with as we can only have two serving at any one time due to the two-metre rule so we will have to take each day as it comes and build up from that although judging by the amount of messages I have had asking when we will open I am hoping the queue will be down the street, two-metres apart of course!
"Hand sanitizer was put in place before we closed at the entrance to the shop, the door will be kept open, only two customers at a time, our open chiller will be stocked with drinks but our filled rolls will be kept behind the counter in another fridge facing away from the customers so only staff can access it. Staff starts will be staggered so staff rooms will not be crowded and so will their breaks. We will encourage phone orders for click and collect and use a separate door for collection.
"My emotions have been all over the place throughout this and there have been many tears, it's certainly been the hardest thing we as a business have ever faced and I am doing everything possible to keep staff in employment moving forward but we can't predict what is going to happen over the course of the next six months, especially if I can only have two staff serving where on a Friday and Saturday we would normally have six.
"I am worried about reopening and how it will be, but we are doing everything possible to keep our staff and customers safe when we do. Risk assessments have been carried out and will continue once we get going. I have never been so glad at the thought of getting back to work though, and back to a routine.