In March this year The Barge House was trading well as an established and thriving canal side restaurant in Hackney. They were well known across London for their signature dish known as Breakfast In Bread; sourdough loaves filled with either a full English breakfast or a variety of alternative vegetarian and vegan offerings. With such a unique and indulgent menu they quickly achieved destination status with a menu perfect for all day brunching.
Six years from conception and the business is serving up to 600 of these loaves every single weekend. So when lockdown hit, just as with other restaurants, The Barge House was forced to close and a new initiative was needed. Founders Fred and Debbie, quickly sought external assistance and by the end of May, Breakfast En Bread was formed.
For our deliveries, they part cook the breads first, fill them, chill them and vacuum pack them for postage, then box and mail them with an ice pack and a free-range egg for each loaf.
We interview Darren Elliott (Operations Director) and Debbie Malynn (Founder) to share their story.
Where did the idea for The Barge House come from and the brunch offering?
The site of The Barge House is steeped in creative history, (originally the largest print house of adult magazines in Europe with Alexander McQueens 1st studio on the top floor). We wanted to create a brunch experience as unique as the venue itself. Combining the French passion for bread and the British passion for a good hearty breakfast, Breakfast In Bread was born.
Why did you set up Breakfast En Bread?
The Barge House was seriously impacted by COVID and lockdown so we formed Breakfast En Bread to test the potential of delivering the product to a wider audience. Previously, customers could only come to the restaurant itself for ‘Breakfast In Bread’ at the weekends. However, in the ‘new normal’, we all breakfast, brunch, and dinner whenever we want, on whatever day we want.
What were the key things you had to change about The Barge House brunch offering to launch Breakfast En Bread?
There were several weeks of testing and delivering boxes to friends before we could go live, but no major changes to the recipes thankfully, so what you have delivered to your home is exactly what is served in the restaurant. We had already run a succession of tests with Gail’s Bakery to get the sourdough size and colour just right so the main focus was on the packaging and preserving the quality of the product during transit. The resulting vacuum pack process that we settled on does that perfectly without damaging the bread crust, or taste and flavour of the dish inside.
What does the future look like for Breakfast En Bread?
We now offer next day delivery to anywhere in the UK and we are set up to increase our output. Breakfast En Bread also translates brilliantly as a wholesale offering for pubs, cafes, and restaurants that either wish to add to an existing breakfast or brunch menu, or as a ready-made menu that simply slots into an existing operation. In addition to that, we have already submitted an application to Sainsbury’s Future Brands with the aim of getting Breakfast En Bread onto their supermarket shelves up and down the land.
How has going ‘digital’ helped the business?
We quickly enabled online ordering and home delivery, made contactless sales and click and collect easy, and introduced gift boxes and digital gift vouchers. In 2020, sending a food box has been the number one way of telling friends and family we miss them and are thinking about them. The home deliveries were an attempt not just to keep The Barge House in business but also our sourdough baker, our butcher and salmon smoker, all the satellite businesses that supply the restaurant.
How has the consumer change in demand impacted the business?
Consumer habits have perhaps been changing the fastest. More time at home has naturally given home cooking a boost and with that, there’s been a growing demand for a variety of options and to recreate restaurant experiences in your own home too.
Do you think you would have ever launched Breakfast En Bread without COVID happening?
Possibly not. Until March this year, The Barge House was trading very well and it took a global pandemic for Debbie and Fred to look outside their profitable model for help. Such a seismic shift in consumer behaviour increases the urgency and reduces risk, subsequently forcing change.
What do you think customers are now wanting from hospitality businesses in the current climate?
Speaking as a customer myself, I’m looking to be reassured if I am to be tempted back into a public dining room. I expect to see clearly visible and well-managed health and safety measures in place, a smaller staff, and in some cases limited menus designed around new consumer preferences like home delivery. I think the increased demand for home delivery is here to stay indefinitely, the crisis has pushed this to the forefront and innovated and advanced the industry as a whole by 2 or 3 years in just six months.
Breakfast En Bread can be ordered for next day delivery all over the UK from their website.
To find out how our approach can help you - drop us a line on 020 3301 5305 or send us the form below with some basic information and we’ll be in touch to discuss the finer details.