Published 4 December 2020
By JP Then
JP is the co-founder of Crosstown and founder of the e-commerce solution Slerp. Here he shares eight positives that we can take away from 2020
Yeah i know – it seems odd for someone to be writing a piece about positivity this year given what we have all gone through. But, I do see many positives for our sector. It has been a year full of learnings for us all, and I’m hopeful as operators, we are embracing some of our new discoveries to lead into 2021.
Here are my eight positive learnings from 2020.
As a resident within the London Bridge locality, one of my local high streets in Bermondsey Street. I am lucky to have this on my doorstep alongside Spa Terminus, Maltby St and Borough Market. These areas are packed full of many great independent operators, and, it’s been busier than ever. Although these areas have always been weekend destinations, there is a renewed buzz, particularly during weekdays. I know that a similar pattern has emerged all across London and beyond – people have rediscovered their local communities and are shopping local from great operators. There is so much amazing produce to purchase in our neighbourhoods and I strongly believe this is here to stay.
Consumers want to engage directly with our concepts across mediums. Owning the direct relationship with a customer is vital to a healthy and thriving business, and that goes for online ordering as well. I have seen so many brands solidify their reputations and identities through 2020 – they know what they stand for and have reasserted this across all channels, whether in-premise, on their website, via social, email, podcasts, how-to videos, interviews or printed materials. We know we need to engage with our customers across mediums – and most importantly, they are telling us they love it.
Any operator knows that this is a sensitive subject. Rents in many areas have been unworkable and for a long time. The dialogue between a landlord and tenant has tended to be purely transactional. At Crosstown, we deal with a multitude of landlord types – some big property groups, pension-funded institutions and some privately owned. Before lockdown, it was pretty common that my only dialogue with them would be them issuing their quarterly rent demand. I feel the relationship has broadly changed, and for the better. The majority of our landlords now have a dialogue with us and are listening. It might have been forced both parties, but this can only be positive. Of course, there are still some that remain stead fast in their blunt approach offering nothing, but the positive i take is that the majority are in communication with us more than they ever have been. It’s positive for both parties and our sector and will continue to evolve.
The reach of our brands and concepts can go further than we ever thought possible. It’s been amazing to see the hundreds of operators on Slerp now offering national delivery. There are so many positive reports of engaging with a new customer base. The customers are out there, we just have to arm ourselves with the right offering and tools to reach them.
Make-at-home kits, Food boxes, At-Home set menus, new packaged goods = e-commerce. Years of progression compressed into a frantic 9 months. It may not have been part of the original plan, but it’s driven engagement with new customers and kept loyal followers happy. Innovation is here to stay and provides us all with a new angle to our concepts, whether dining in-premises or selling online.
One of the greatest achievements at Crosstown is selling milk, butter, veg and bread. Never in my seven years of operating had it crossed my mind to create a grocery box – and why would it. Yet, in March of this year, The Crosstown Collective was born, banding together with other businesses such as The Estate Dairy, Miller Bespoke Bakery, St JOHN’s – we were all stuffed and felt lost – but we managed to band together to get through it. There have been some great collaborations and partnerships this year, more so than i have ever seen. It’s been great to see and I know it will continue into the future.
Casualties have been (and will be) inevitable. The news is peppered with the doom of what is going on. We should be celebrating the success of those that are surviving, adapting and most importantly, learning. We are a resilient bunch and this year has proven it again.
We do what we do because we love our sector. We love hospitality. And once removed, the world is just not the same. Our customers miss the hospitality we provide – i know they value it more than ever when they can see us face to face again.