The past year and a half has been a struggle for every industry, and maybe none more so than the hospitality sector which was forced to close its doors for longer than anyone could have imagined.
Despite the pandemic, Belfast has witnessed several small businesses popping up and thriving! It is an exciting time for the hospitality sector and at MCS we love supporting local businesses.
Over the coming weeks as more people return to the office, we are going to shine a light on some new businesses in the city centre and beyond where you can get everything from your early morning coffee fix to your post-work cocktails!
First up is Napoleon Coffee. Owned by couple Rachel and Matthew, Napoleon celebrates its first birthday this Saturday! The café serves excellent coffee as well as freshly baked goods and sandwiches and it is conveniently located on Ormeau Avenue next to the famous Ormeau Baths.
We caught up with one of the owners Rachel to ask what opening a business during Covid has been:
1. Hi Rachel,! So the first question is "how long had you been planning to open your business and what made you finally take the leap"?
So this was something that was probably about six or seven years in the works. Coming from a love of coffee and managing other cafes in some way, it was something we’d always planned on doing someday. In 2019, we had business plans and we aimed to do it in 2020, then obviously March came, the pandemic hit, and we were like okay it’s out the window! We wanted it in the business district, we wanted it on this side of town, so with here, this strange opportunity came up in the strangest of times, and yeah it was a big risk but we decided to give it a shot and we have our first birthday on Saturday and things are going smoothly!
2. That’s great, so happy for you! What has been the biggest struggle your business has faced since they opened?
With the pandemic, I think it's the uncertainty of what's happening week on week. And so I think for us being so small, we haven't got the little inside up and running yet. I think it's just not knowing what's around the corner as well - whether it's planning, for example, we want to get a kitchen space fitted, but when’s the right time to do that? Then it's whether there is going to be enough footfall in the area and wondering are people going back to work yet? We really want to start getting more staff on board but for us, we want to make the promise that we can guarantee a good workplace and the hours, so we need to really know that things are ticking along in terms of people coming back into the city centre and obviously that is something that we can’t predict!
3. Yeah, it is very unpredictable! So, what are your top tips for anyone wanting to open their own business?
OK, so if you want to get into this for the café/ coffee scene, I would definitely recommend doing a few shifts in a café and see if it’s for you. It's not always as glamorous as made out to be, there's always a lot of jobs that aren't very fun. Do a bit of market research, get a bit of experience in a café and see where it takes you!
4. Great advice! Finally, what are you most excited about for the coming year?
Hopefully growing our team, get a kitchen space and start to do more food. And finally get to invite people inside and making it feel like the cafes properly came to life .
So, there we have it, some great advice from one of Belfast’s hottest new coffee spots. Why not help them celebrate this weekend by popping down to show your support?