Linda Hill, incoming Scottish Bakers president and owner of family firm Murrays of Perth, on the steps she is taking to reopen the business.
“As it became obvious 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 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. 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 and 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. While our Small Business Grant money was paid quickly, the furlough payments from the government didn’t come through for another eight 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 staff abreast of the situation.
All this while we have been sourcing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as visors and masks, as well as signage and stickers for the floor. We’ve really appreciated regular updates throughout this from Scottish Bakers, with all the relevant information on reopening and on our responsibilities. Its 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.
We have decided to reopen the week of 15 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 are going to have to work moving forward.
We will only be bringing back a third 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 number 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 sanitiser was put in place at the entrance to the shop before we closed, the door will be kept open, with only two customers allowed in 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, 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.”