Just when a small bakery in St Julian’s that opened two years ago was starting to turn a profit, the coronavirus hit.
But Manouche Craft Bakery is one of the growing ranks of companies that are now doing their best to innovate and adapt to these pressing times.
“We delivered 500 zeppoli on Thursday for the Feast of St Joseph,” said co-owner Bjorn Bartolo, who has a staff of 28.
“We’ve teamed up with a taxi company called J Cabs that was going out of business. Their four drivers are now delivering food for us, along with the two drivers we already have,” he said.
“We’ve managed to keep all staff employed for now, although we did have to reduce some of our part-timers’ hours.”
The company has orders for days ahead and has adapted its menu to include family-friendly offers such as a Sunday roast lunch for €22.
“These are lower prices than what we usually charge but we want to help people,” he said.
However, despite the creative ways that he and his business partner are adopting, Bartolo is quick to say that they will just about break even.
“We are still on our own. The government is not doing enough to help small businesses,” he said.
“We need help to cover our electricity and water bills. It’s OK for companies that don’t depend on tourism and local foot traffic, but we do.”
Another company feeling the strain – but trying to make the best of the situation – is taxi and food delivery service Bolt.
These are lower prices than what we usually charge. But we want to help people
“What we’d planned to do in three years, we’ve had to do in one week,” says COO Sebastian Ripard.
“Our food deliveries are through the roof and are growing 50 per cent week on week. We now have 250 self-employed couriers working for us.”
However, it’s not all good news. “While the food delivery side of the business is increasing, the taxi sector has dropped since people have to stay indoors, so we’re actually trying to deal with that as well.”
Local councils have got in on the act, trying to keep companies operating and people employed.
In Attard, the council has set up a group called You Safe.
“For now it’s been joined by Balzan and Lija local councils, but we expect it will grow nationally,” says executive secretary Marica Mifsud.
One of the ideas they are working on is to compile a list of local business willing to do delivery essentials to locals.
“So far six companies have come forward which include restaurants and stationery shops,” she said.
And BELS language school – which has facilities in St Paul’s Bay and Gozo – says it has seen a sharp rise in the number of prospective students wanting to sign up to their online courses.
“In the face of an unprecedented situation, businesses and organisations will achieve very little if we wait and do nothing,” said CEO Rebecca Bonnici.
“We sat down and looked at the areas where we could excel and started thinking outside the box,” she said.
“Our English language learners were disappointed as they cannot travel to Malta to follow their courses, but their interest and concern got us thinking.
“So, we are now taking our business online.”
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