If you’ve only recently been introduced to the Teser brand and haven’t followed us from the start, you might not know that in addition to being a small business ourselves, we have our roots in a local Calgary-based company, Reggin Industries. That means that we believe in supporting the local economy and industry, and helping our friends and neighbours get through these difficult times as much as we can. Recently, we talked with the owners of a few local favourites – Red’s Diner, Banded Peak Brewing, and Coutu Kitsch – to get their perspectives on how 2020 has changed their operations, and what the future will look like.
Looking Forward to the Future
As a relatively new and small-sized business with the ambition to expand, we are well aware of the difficulties that 2020 has brought to us and many similar organizations. Operating with reduced staff and customer populations, supply shortages, and unpredictable logistics has made even daily operations difficult for everyone. With that said, health and safety are important, too, and every business is looking forward to the current pandemic getting under control, and trying to maintain a baseline service that will last until then. The three we spoke to have struck a hopeful balance with a steady course for now, while still eagerly anticipating more normal operations in the months ahead.
Being Agile is Key
In an environment like the one that defined 2020, being quick to act and flexible from one day to the next is key. All three businesses we spoke to moved some portion of their operations online, even Red’s with online gift card sales – about all they can do, as a restaurant. Banded Peak and Coutu Kitsch both offer online sales and local delivery now, doing what they can to make up for the loss of foot traffic to their stores. For the latter, they have grown their online presence from a small fraction of their sales to nearly a quarter of their total revenue this year, after closing down completely between March and July.
“Get creative and be nimble,” says Colin, co-founder of Banded Peak Brewing. “It doesn’t have to be right or perfect from the get-go.” He says that moving quickly is more important than weighing every option in an economy like this. “If you can get there quick, you’re already ahead.”
We’re Stronger Together
Another lesson that small businesses are taking away is that joining forces can help overcome unforeseen challenges, and promote supportive behaviour that benefits everyone. Red’s, for example, has partnered with other local businesses to do 12 days of Christmas giveaways on Instagram, during which they are sending out $50 gift cards to lucky followers. They also switched up some of their products to boost their local support, changing batter recipes and other offerings to promote their neighbours. Over at Coutu Kitsch, they have teamed up with Greenway Courier, a Calgary-based delivery company, to distribute all of their online purchases with same-day delivery as much as possible – something they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. This turns a challenging situation into a win-win for both parties involved.
The Community Really Cares
If there’s another positive to the entirety of the pandemic, it’s that it has highlighted the dedication and support many people from Calgary and Alberta have for their favourite businesses. Coutu Kitsch, now in its tenth year, has seen it firsthand: “Calgarians have been amazing,” says Kofi Oteng, one of the owners. He explains that people have been using curbside pickups, ordering online, and even coming into the shop when it is safe to do so. “They have stuck with us. No one does it like Alberta.”
Banded Peak has seen their retail sales shoot up, too, in the absence of the traditional B2B sector and taproom availability. Despite early bar closures, reduced capacity, and other control measures, Colin points out that Calgary’s desire to support breweries like his is strong. “If you have good customer service, and a good quality product that shows up consistently,” he says, “people will respond to it.” It won’t look the same as years past, but what the brand represents is what really connects for its community of loyal fans.
Spreading Christmas Cheer
Just like in years past, these small businesses have Christmas promotions to help spread a bit of Christmas cheer in the community. Red’s has gift cards that are perfect stocking stuffers – and offer a great excuse to go out, see a friend, and have an excellent meal once restrictions are lifted again. Banded Peak’s tradition is to release an extra-strong Christmas beer that pairs well with any home-cooked meal, so order some of those for home delivery if you’re feeling festive this December. And Coutu Kitsch, which has some of the best small and meaningful gifts you can find in the city, is running its same-day delivery promotion through this month, ensuring you won’t have to wait on postal delivery or risk delays with a big courier.
As for us, we’re grateful to work alongside companies like these, and hundreds of others around the city and the province. 2020 has been difficult for everyone, but we’re all in it together, and the relationships forged now will outlast the pandemic and all of the challenges it has brought. And if nothing else, that’s something amazing that has come out of this year, and will benefit all the years to come.