Monday, 28 November 2011

Let them eat cake

Unemployment rising. TICK
Global food prices soaring. TICK
Consumer spending on goods and services remaining low. TICK
Britain likely to enter a double recession. TICK

Ideal time to open another cafe.

People often ask me whether the credit crunch has affected our business. Its impossible for me to answer because this is the only economic environment Lantana has known. Opening in September 2008, Lantana arrived on the crest of the wave that was, and still is, the global financial crisis.

I remember the day before we opened flicking through a newspaper filled with stories of the long deep recession we were facing. As the knot in my stomach grew tighter and tighter I said to my business partner “I think we might be the most stupid people on earth”.

We bravely soldiered on and three years later not only is Lantana still in business, it is now one of many independent cafes in London that are not just surviving, but thriving. I’m amazed and delighted that barely a month goes by when I don’t hear about a new café opening that I want to go and check out. Two have opened just recently, metres from where I live.

Salt on Great Queen St, Covent Garden, the day before opening

and just around the corner in Wellington St Covent Garden, Notes recently opened their second cafe. 

“Let them eat cake” is famously attributed to Marie Antoinette when told that the starving peasants had no bread to eat. While this expression has been used to demonstrate her frivolity and callousness, maybe she has been wrongly maligned. I suspect that she was actually showing great empathy for the peasants, understanding that in times of extreme economic hardship it is the small luxuries that help us survive.

On a bleak Monday afternoon while sitting in one of my favourite local cafes 

I sipped a silky smooth flatwhite with a slice of carrot cake and pondered why cafes seem to be defying the economic slump. On cue, two city types popped their heads in and one said to the other: 
“This place looks nice. Is it expensive?”
“£2.20 for a coffee. That’s cheap” the other replied, and in they came.
Since when did suits become sensitive to the price of a cup of coffee?

That's when it struck me. Independent cafes are no longer the third place. They have become the credit crunch place. With their reclaimed furniture and lack of frills or pretention, they are the affordable luxury that we can still enjoy in a gloomy world of austerity cuts and meagre budgets. The fact that independent cafes are usually staffed by young scruffy hipsters is the icing on our cake, making us feel we are doing our bit for youth unemployment.

So with shaky hand about to sign the lease for a second café, I can read the newspaper with less fear than I might when economists are describing our grim economic future and quibbling over whether the recovery will be shaped like a 'V' 'W’ or 'U'.  Perhaps it will be an 'L' shape (long-term slump with no recovery) which in years to come will be taught in high school economic classes as the ‘Latte’ recovery. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Rodeo Mike

Hi there! My name’s Mike and I work at Lantana. If you pop down to Lantana this month you will recognise me as the one grooming my very own charity Mo for Movember, in support of Prostate cancer and Testicular cancer. So far it is going well and a bushy tash is forming beautifully, if not very gingerly!

Lantana has kindly offered to match whatever I raise, just because they are that nice, so donations are very welcome. If you would like to donate to this amazing cause visit my site. Better yet, come down to Lantana and check out my Mo for yourself and donate in person. Any amount is a generous one.

See you soon :{)

PS- Let's hope Mike has better success than the LanMowers who last year only managed to raise £70.41 and brought great shame and embarasment to us all, but mostly to themselves. S x