So I haven't written in a while. 2020 has been an absolute rollercoaster. It is a really strange time for a lot of people, and it has been, for over 6 months! It definitely doesn't feel like 6 months, for me anyway...
March 12th is when it all started for us. Probably the same as everybody. 'Schools will be closed From Friday 13th' Absolute mayhem. Queues 1 hour long to get into Musgraves (I'm just behind them so I could see the carnage!) I didn't really know what to expect, to be honest. We had finished topping pizzas that night at 7 pm. When we left, people were still queuing to get into Musgraves! Again I didn't really grasp what was happening. As for me, it was like any other Thursday, 'how many pizzas do I need for next week'.
I was on my way to the kitchen the next morning at 6 am when I got a text.... 'Can you deliver us all of the pizzas you have'. This is when it all kicked in for me. This was the start of the panic buy. For 2 straight months, myself, my girlfriend and my family worked around the clock 7 days a week to keep up with the demand. By the end of March, we didn't really see an end in sight, we didn't know how long this would last & we didn't know how long we could keep up the mad hours! It was quite challenging both mentally and physically. However, we were extremely fortunate to still be working. I am not in any way complaining as I know a lot of people in Ireland lost their jobs, but it was still extremely tough.
I had tastings planned in a lot of our new stores we started in just before Covid. These all got cancelled. In the food industry, tasting product is so important for customers, especially something as new and unique as my product. I did worry if any product would be bought but thankfully people were extremely supportive of Irish companies. It was one of the most positive things to see during the whole pandemic. People supporting local, people supporting Irish made, and people supporting small companies. It was so important for a lot of companies survival that everyone stuck together and supported each other.
Before covid, we had been discussing the possibility of teaming up with another company to help top our pizzas. They had a much bigger capacity than me, therefore could make a lot more pizzas allowing me to get out and try to get into more stores. Put the suit on and be a salesman for a change! This had to be paused. The white jacket stayed on and we just had to just batten down the hatches and get through the tough times. Thankfully, since things have eased slightly, these talks have resumed and have advanced a long way.
Throughout the pandemic, I was also taking part in a food works course which is run by Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia & Teagasc. I was looking at my branding and if my product can be improved in any way. Again this was tough to juggle as it usually meant a lot of late nights doing laptop work to godly hours. I think it was quite important that it happened because we have a product which is now better structurally, better nutritional values and tastes just as good, if not better than my original product.
The importance of the pizza now is the high veg count in the base. In today's climate where we are looking to boost our immunity, it is important that we put the right nutrients and vitamins into our bodies. This is something we are looking to launch before Christmas. We have also developed the bases so that they can also be sold by themselves (Woohooo!). This is something we worked extremely hard on the last number of months. It is something I was not capable of doing myself due to the facilities I was in. But thanks to our manufacturing partners, we have been able to achieve just that! This probably won't see a lot of stores this side of Christmas as we are still finalising a few final deets but definitely will be launched to a wide number of stores in Jan 2021.
2020 has been a write off for a lot of people. It is all I hear/see on social media 'Let's just start again in 2021'. I have been extremely fortunate that is not the case for me, my family, my girlfriend, and my company. We are all healthy. We hope to end this year strong and start next year even stronger. 2020 has thought me a couple of things - Be nice to others. Be positive no matter what is going on. Cherish loved ones.
Ps As my time frees up I will try and do this a bit more. I find it therapeutic even if I'm not great at putting words on paper!
Thanks for reading - Craig.