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How do you survive a pandemic once you work in hospitality? So many individuals have misplaced their companies this 12 months, to nice unhappiness. But others have carried out really progressive issues and are available again stronger than ever.
Recently, the Czech tourism board highlighted the tales of locals in Prague who creatively pivoted their companies to survive throughout the pandemic. They discovered a manner to survive — although they’re hoping to welcome extra vacationers again quickly.
I watched the movies and was struck by how shifting they have been.
And as I watched them, I had one story I wished to inform specifically:
The story of Petr, Gabi, and Etapa — a cafe in my neighborhood of Karlín in Prague. A cafe that not solely survived the pandemic, however managed to thrive below the brand new regular. A story of perseverance and neighborhood. A story I hope you take pleasure in.
This branded content material publish is introduced to you by Czech Tourism.
Note — the above video is in Czech. Hit the CC button and English captions will present up.
A Gem in Karlín
In many European cities, vacationers like to discover completely different neighborhoods, discovering the sorts of hidden gems solely locals learn about. But surprisingly, in Prague, I discover that the majority vacationers stick to the outdated city, not often venturing past the bounds of Prague 1, the town heart.
Of course, the outdated city is gorgeous — so many crenellated buildings, a citadel alongside the river. But there’s a lot occurring exterior the outdated city, too. So a lot that I virtually really feel like Prague is 2 cities — the neighborhoods crammed with vacationers, and the neighborhoods that by no means see vacationers. Karlín, one of many coolest neighborhoods in Prague, is the latter.
Karlín is the place I stay now and the place my boyfriend Charlie has lived for the previous 10 years. He loves it a lot that on his travels, he’s all the time trying to find the equal of Karlín: rising, fashionable, native, and funky. Poblenou in Barcelona. Prati in Rome. Roma Norte in Mexico City.
Karlín is a 20-minute stroll up the river from the outdated city. It’s distinctive in that it’s edged with workplace buildings, however within the center is a residential space with parks, outlets, cafes, and Prague’s trademark candy-colored homes.
And a type of cafes is Etapa, owned by Karlín residents and Prague meals bloggers Petr Ogurcak and Gabi Ogurcakova. Karlín was central to opening their enterprise.
“It’s in the center but it’s not, it’s green but it’s not,” says Petr. “It’s kind of everything.”
“There are lots of expats,” provides Gabi. “And you can buy whatever you need here, you don’t need to go to the big mall.”
“We call it Small Berlin,” Petr says.
SMALL BERLIN! That is PERFECT! That phrase encapsulates Karlín extra succinctly than the rest I’ve heard.
Starting a Business
How do you out of the blue determine to begin a small enterprise? Some folks have the entrepreneurial hearth of their stomach from start, however for some folks, all the things falls into place on the proper time.
For Petr and Gabi, a married couple of their thirties, they have been wanting one thing extra out of life.
“We didn’t just want to sit at home, working behind our computers,” Gabi tells me.
“We wanted something when we can meet people. So, the first idea –” she turns to Petr. “I think you started making bread?”
“I suppose my ambition was to make sourdough bread,” Petr says with a smile. “A chance to do it properly.”
In 2019 each Petr and Gabi labored in web-related professions — Petr as a UX designer, Gabi as a paid search advertising and marketing specialist. In their free time, they ran a meals weblog, PG Foodies, as a pastime.
(Fun truth: I used to be additionally a paid search advertising and marketing specialist earlier than quitting my job to journey the world. Unlike me, Gabi didn’t give up in grand style; as a freelancer, she merely decreased her workload over time.)
“I’m so glad that I left everything behind,” sighs Gabi. “At first it was creative, like eight years ago, but then…”
“It became more technical than creative,” says Petr. “We felt a little bit tired of the IT environment.”
Being profitable meals bloggers, that they had considered doing one thing extra with meals. And then a possibility arrived proper within the coronary heart of Karlín.
“We live just there,” Petr says, gesturing his head down the road. “We found this place. We fell in love with it. And we didn’t know what we would do with the space, but we had just one week to prepare our concept for the previous owners.”
It labored — they usually have been in a position to begin engaged on the cafe, which opened in January 2020.
“It’s a great environment,” Petr says. “You feel at home. You get immediate feedback. It’s what we were missing online.”
“It’s interesting,” I level out, “so many people who pivoted online in the early days are now coming offline. To have more interactions with people.”
They agree. “You realize it’s hard,” Gabi provides, “but it makes you happier.”
And so Etapa was born.
“When we started, we focused on breakfast — interesting, beautiful breakfasts,” Gabi says. “There are places in Prague where you can find interesting brunches, but everything is, like, bread with avocado! So we wanted to do different things. And it worked.”
“It was quite busy,” Petr says.
“We moved to prepare lunches for the workers here, a weekly menu. Beautiful bowls, those things.” Being a neighborhood surrounded by workplace buildings, Karlín has plenty of employees on the lookout for fast and scrumptious lunches. Later, Petr and Gabi experimented with a dinner menu, that includes mild bites and cocktails.
If you’ve spent any time within the Czech Republic, you recognize that Czechs eat a lot of meat, particularly pork. But Etapa serves solely vegetarian delicacies, the dishes that includes elements from small native producers. The menu adjustments every month.
Even so, they’re not precisely shouting from rooftops that they’re a vegetarian cafe. “We don’t use this label,” Petr says.
Petr and Gabi are literally meat eaters themselves, however whereas meals running a blog they determined to check out other ways of consuming to see the way it made them really feel. (Ironically, Petr the bread maker found that his physique doesn’t love gluten.)
Ultimately, they determined to concentrate on prime quality elements. And that may imply eschewing mass market-produced bread in favor of a loaf made out of stone-ground wheat.
This cafe is one thing completely different in Prague, and when you concentrate on it, being delicate in regards to the vegetarian menu may have earned them clients they wouldn’t have attracted in any other case.
The pandemic hit out of the blue in March 2020 — so out of the blue that Petr and Gabi awoke at 6:00 AM, checked out their telephones, and came upon that every one eating places within the Czech Republic been shut down. They had been given no indication this was going to occur.
“It was a shock at first,” Petr says, “but we had to act quickly, so we opened the window.”
“On the first day?!” I exclaim.
Indeed, on the very first day, they pivoted.
“We had so much food in our fridge,” Gabi says. “We decided that we will sell all the things, because we know our suppliers, our local small farmers, and we didn’t want to break this chain.”
They bought like loopy from the window that day. The subsequent day, they determined to absolutely shut, as that they had no concept how extreme COVID could be.
Looking again, the Czech Republic’s first COVID wave in March was tiny, particularly in contrast to different European international locations. Things would get a lot worse later within the 12 months. But in these early days, we had no clue about how unhealthy this could be or how lengthy it might final.
“We didn’t know what was ethical, to be open or closed,” Petr says. And to make issues extra sophisticated, they have been chargeable for paying their workers.
“It’s difficult when you’re a freelancer, but you only take care of one person,” provides Gabi. “We had so many people to take care of.”
So they determined to pivot once more for so long as the shutdown would final. “We decided to sell — like from the window, but online. We started selling on Instagram, we had this green box, and we put stuff in the box right here,” he gestures in entrance of the cafe. “The customer came to pay, and we were inside.”
It paid off — and clients liked it. “It was a really funny thing, but then it grew and we were able to manage all things on Instagram. We created an e-shop and it was like a rocket start.”
Gabi factors out that their work backgrounds gave them a super benefit — thanks to their data of internet design, search advertising and marketing, and on-line publishing, they have been in a position to pivot to an internet system shortly somewhat than spend time studying how to do it.
And it was an adjustment. Their prices elevated — they wanted extra packaging, for instance. But Etapa was one among only a few locations open in Karlín, and that labored to their benefit as properly.
“We were thinking how to shape our offer for the situation,” Petr says. “So we started baking more and more. And I think our product became more popular during the pandemic.”
“Everybody was making bread during the pandemic,” I joke. We all chortle.
A New Normal
I take lengthy walks in Karlín most days, and every time I inevitably find yourself strolling previous Etapa. There is nearly all the time a big crowd gathered exterior.
Karlín locals present up to Etapa in droves, and there are all the time a few canines hanging out, a few infants in strollers. While indoor eating has been closed for months, locals are right here to seize a espresso and a pastry to take pleasure in within the park, or maybe choose up some takeaway lunch and have a chat with a neighbor.
I level this out to Gabi. “Oh, it’s super nice when you hear that,” she says, including that she loves how her staff know so many shoppers by title, even within the age of face masks. “And it’s because of the pandemic that they found us.”
“They found you from word of mouth?”
“So many people wrote about us because we started the e-shop quickly.” In this case, publicity within the early pandemic days gave them a enhance that’s lasted to this present day.
It’s been powerful right here. While the Czech Republic had a pretty regular summer time, instances started rising in late September, turning into three distinct waves. Both indoor and out of doors eating have been closed down for months.
But nonetheless, folks come to Etapa.
And I come to my favourite query — “What’s the best thing on the menu?”
The quick reply — no matter they’re introducing in the meanwhile.
“I love everything on the menu,” Gabi says earlier than I even end the query. The menu adjustments month-to-month and proper now they’re that includes a barley dish with mushrooms gathered from the forest, seasoned with wild herbs. “It’s like art to me,” she provides.
As for me, I like their pistachio cookies. They’re gluten-free and also you wouldn’t even realize it!
How to Survive a Pandemic as an Entrepreneur
The pandemic has been probably the most disruptive occasion of our lives, and plenty of small companies didn’t survive the previous 12 months. What recommendation would Petr and Gabi give to different entrepreneurs when confronted with powerful instances?
“Be yourself,” Petr says firmly.
“Be personal,” Gabi provides. “We know so many cafes and bistros that selected an company to take over their Instagram. It appears to be like good, nevertheless it’s not private. What works right here is we make adjustments. Even although –“
“Even though it’s hard. It’s hard. It’s tiring,” Petr says.
“And sometimes we cook something we love, even though we wouldn’t normally put it on the menu,” says Gabi.
“We think from the perspective of our customers,” says Petr. “I create emotions, and you won’t forget that. You’ll forget when you buy something, and what it costs, but you won’t forget how you felt.”
As I take a look at Gabi and Petr’s success, I’m discovering frequent threads with different entrepreneurs I do know who weathered the pandemic higher than others.
They acted shortly, with out overthinking. A lot of individuals froze when the pandemic hit — understandably so — however performing shortly helped them appeal to native publicity and capitalize on the eye.
They had a robust tech background, together with internet design and social media. This allowed them to create shortly and assuredly as a substitute of struggling or outsourcing.
They’ve all the time had a robust sense of mission. Their objective has all the time been to feed their neighborhood and create connections amongst their neighbors. A pandemic doesn’t change that. People nonetheless want to be nourished, bodily and emotionally.
It’s humorous. Gabi and Petr didn’t begin their careers as entrepreneurs — however when issues bought powerful, that they had these muscle tissue, prepared to be flexed.
Yes, I feel it’s best to come to Etapa — and Karlín! The cafe is positioned at Urxova 479/6 in Prague. From the outdated city, it’s a seven-minute journey on the tram, although I like to recommend strolling alongside the river, which is nice and takes nearer to 45 minutes.
Please don’t be intimidated as a result of the day by day specials are written in Czech exterior — the workers converse English and could be blissful to aid you.
Come for lunch, or come for a espresso and pastry to take pleasure in in one among close by parks. I assure you’ll take pleasure in it.
Gabi and Petr are two sensible, considerate entrepreneurs whose cafe deserves your small business.
More Prague Stories
Petr and Gabi are removed from the one Prague entrepreneurs turning lemons into lemonade throughout the pandemic. Many others in hospitality are pivoting in inventive and sudden methods.
Here are the tales of extra entrepreneurs, instructed in video they usually’re all definitely worth the watch. I hope you take pleasure in them as a lot as I did.
First, the accommodations who pivoted by offering lodging to healthcare employees and unhoused folks:
And the bike tour firm that pivoted to delivering locals important items:
And the ballet dancer who remains to be dancing:
And the meals tour firm that pivoted into internet hosting digital dinners with native eating places:
Again, I used to be genuinely stunned at how moved I used to be by these movies. I want the very best for these sensible entrepreneurs as they rebuild post-COVID and get again to welcoming folks to Prague!
Do you recognize anybody who pivoted throughout the pandemic? Share away!