How to open when the whole world is closing down?

The ever changing rules made us ever changing, so far! It has not been easy to open Omni just as the whole world went on lockdown.

November 23, 2020

It has not been easy to open Omni just as the whole world went on lockdown. On the other hand it could not have shown more clearly the need to work with more respect for our environment and the importance it has for our health.

When we started working with food it was because health issues had forced us to produce all we ate ourselves; it was the only means by which we could be sure of what was in the food. With this exercise, we also started learning about the various production processes and the impact they have not only on the environment but also on our organism. It was surprising to discover the extent to which it is all interconnected and to what extent it is in balance when allowed to follow its natural course: from the ground up and back down again.

At popular request we started selling our productions and slowly realised we would be happy sharing the experience with others, ensuring that knowledge and variety in tastes be preserved, even if in a small scale.

Our passion grew with the years, leading to Omni - all around food. We were happy and excited about the journey: we were going to open a place for people to eat, to learn about and to produce great food; preferably made by hand by local producers equally passionate about their wares!

And then COVID 19 hit us. We were told we had to close the café we were just opening. We were allowed to continue with the shop but we could not meet with other producers as people were advised to stay home and practise social distancing. This also meant people were not inclined to enter a shop they did not yet know to enquire about products they might not recognise. In times of struggle, we strive for the familiar, for the warm and comforting. And althoughOmni is definitely warm and comforting, it was not familiar yet.

So we wondered what to do how to open and continue staying open? We decided that if people were going to come out of their houses it would be for actual meals, to have a brake from all the cooking at home, to try different things or to let someone else pamper them a little. Although we had not intended to become a restaurant, we thought it was the best we could offer at that moment and so we did.

We flyered the neighbourhood presenting ourselves and offering full menus. Slowly it started picking up. People tried at times a full three course meal, at times just the starter, the main dish or the dessert. We started getting some catering requests and people started taking an interest in the shop. It was not the opening we had planned or were hoping for but with Corona looming over all, we were always happy when we heard the entrance bell ring.

Finally came the day when we were allowed to open the café for real! The only hitch was that we where then going to open two simultaneously: the Prinsentuin season was upon us as well. We had not been able to interview employees, prepare the routine and processes required for each place as we had planned. We had veered to creating family menus, vegan or not, for take away or delivery so the internal workings of a café had not been set-up for Omni. Whilst Prinsentuin was thankfully familiar, we were no longer doing it together. We had to push forward separately for the first time in seven years. It was not a comfortable position.

So we decided to do it with humour and lightness. After all these were strange times for everyone. We figured that we would take it a step at a time, literally and see where it would take us. In our case the health aspect was already embedded in our philosophy and way of working, so all we had to do was to adapt to the RIVM regulations regarding the movement of people and goods. Here we also thought we should keep it simple, allow people to have contact with each other, even if at a distance, to resolve together how to go about the space shared. We ensured that the physical environment was clean and safe, taking all possible precautions for our guests to feel comfortable, protected and welcome.

And so we finally opened, Omni – all around food. Everything was trial and error at first. We had several people working at either location until we slowly could form our team. After months of hard work, we were starting to get the results anticipated. We had a team of four people, working both at Omni and in the garden, complementing each other and striving for the best service and quality for our guests. The guests were starting to discover Omni, coming for breakfast or drinks as well as lunch. The shop was a bit on the backburner but the bread was being appreciated and the volumes were increasing.

Then came the second lockdown for the café, at first for a month then until December at least. This hit us very hard and we had to go back to the drawing board. How to proceed from here? What to do with the team? How to best to serve our guests? How to invite more clients into the shop? At the moment, this is still a daily question. At first, we have focused on getting our site live, getting Thuisbezorgd activated and ensuring a minimum of work for our employees. This to ensure some continuity in our activities and some clarity for our clients.Creating a simple digital footprint from which to grow.

In this next phase, we will look into new products for the shop and preparing specials for Christmas. Our aim is to have the baguettes and the gluten-free bread ready by the end of the year, to have more products in the shop and to ensure a greater client base. With that we will be able to offer more employment to our team and, with them, produce more great products for you!

Would you like to participate and help out? Spread the word and talk to us, we are always open to hearing your ideas!

Looking forward to seeing you soon,

Dorien and Monique


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