Brewery firm Toast Ale in Southwark has launched a new-look website to handle a rush of online sales during the Covid-19 crisis, as it starts a charity initiative to feed vulnerable people.
The award-winning social enterprise based in Lavington Street at the heart of Southwark said demand for its products “shot up” as the country entered lockdown.
Chief toaster and CEO Rob Wilson said: “Our online sales have gone through the roof.” The firm has also created a Meal Deal initiative where profits from sales pay for food for those in need.
The company creates beer brewed with bread that would normally go to waste, donating all profits to environmental charities.
Wilson said the coronavirus has been “challenging” for many businesses, but he had been working on contingency planning since January implementing an action plan as lockdown appeared imminent.
Talking about the last day of work before his team started working from home, he said: “We sat the whole team down and explained the reality of things. That for a business like ours selling beer clearly is going to be really challenging if bars, pubs and restaurants are going to close.”
He said around 70% of sales were from bars, restaurants and pubs, and that the rise in online sales was a welcome arrival.
He added: “We instantly turned to our online shop, which we’ve always had but have never really focused on it. It has been one of those parts of our business where for years we’ve said we should do something, but it has fallen to the bottom of the list.”
Wilson said the firm would ordinarily sell about £200 to £300 of beer online each month, which was “a tiny fraction” of total sales.
He explained the company had sold “well over £10,000 of beer online” in the space of 10 days: “It has shot up as part of the business. We were planning to re-build the website in coming weeks or months anyway, and so we’ve instantly bumped that up the order.”
Last week Toast Ale launched its new website with a “new all-singing, all-dancing web shop”.
Talking about the Meal Deal initiative, Wilson said: “We’ve pegged a specific amount of money from every sale of beer, every bottle or can sold online, where we’re going to be donating whatever it takes to get meals to those in need.”
The first project being supported by Toast Ale is Alchemic Kitchen based in Liverpool, and others will be helped in London, Kent and Sussex. The brewery’s charity partner Feedback will be distributing the meals.
Wilson praised the “incredible maturity” of staff during the crisis, and added: “The team have just done unbelievably well. The attitude, the positivity, commitment, the sense of humour, and the company values. One of our first values as a business is companionship, and the team have just shown this phenomenal companionship of coming together, and camaraderie to get through what is such a challenging situation.
“It’s a difficult time and at the end of the day we’re the first to remind each other it’s only beer, and there is a lot more to be conscious and supportive of in the wider society beyond what we’re doing.
“We want to do absolutely everything to keep the team together and adapt to the changing environment that clearly we will face. Hopefully we will ultimately grow stronger as a team and as a business from this."
To learn more about Toast Ale and its Meal Deal initiative head to: www.toastale.com
Read the latest issue of Southwark magazine at: www.southwarkmagazine.com/magazine
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