Like so many businesses during the past year, FED, one of Boardwalk’s community partners, had to think on its feet and adapt its offering across its three locations to cater to the ever-changing environment COVID created. We chat with owner Ross Rawlings to discuss lockdown loaves, locations and the unique community spirit in Bristol.
After meeting twelve years ago at a Falmouth beach cafe, Ross and business (and life!) partner Charlotte always knew that their shared passion for food and drink would eventually lead to them having their own space.
“Charlotte was brought up around farms, and her understanding of food just blew my mind, she has an amazing talent for flavours and taste and a real appreciation of seasonality. From when we first met, we knew that that was our goal, to one day have our own cafe or restaurant,” explains Ross.
Cut to 2018, and after finding a prime spot on Gloucester Road by chance, the first FED was born!
“Both of us worked at Boston Tea Party for a time, and this helped us immensely with regards to business structure and how it all works behind the coffee and cake, having a passion for food is one thing, but running a business is something entirely different!”, says Ross.
“We actually came across the Gloucester Road space on Gumtree, and we got so lucky. At the time Bishopston/Horfield was lacking a really good, independent cafe, and the support that we received, and continue to receive from the local community has inspired our growth across the city. At the time, our business plan allowed for a member of staff to be employed after about three months. We ended up employing someone after just three days!” adds Ross.
BC (before COVID), FED 303 on Gloucester Road was the hot spot for coffee and cake in Horfield, with their stylish cafe seating up to 20 customers. However, when the pandemic hit, Ross and Charlotte saw an opportunity to serve the people of Bristol a little differently.
“We had to stay positive when COVID hit, we had just closed the cafe and only just opened up a larger prep kitchen down the road before we went into lockdown. I just knew that we had to take the opportunity that was in front of us at the time and take this kitchen on for longer, and it paid off, we were actually one of the first cafes in Bristol to offer a home delivery service”, explains Ross.
“The first two or three weeks of lockdown were absolute bedlam! We were trying to cater to 50% more customers whilst working at about half capacity with regards to staff. We knew that there was another opportunity here for another location”, explains Ross.
Towards the tail end of 2020, Ross and Charlotte were approached to take on a Cotham location, and FED’s second location, FED 1B has already proved successful in a short space of time.
“Weirdly, our busiest time was during lockdown. We tailored our menu to suit a more “grab and go” style of order. Cotham is such an amazing location, with delicious independents up and down the road”, says Ross.
With a third location inside Glitch Hairdressers’ event space in Old Market, the times ahead look to be busy for the FED team.
“With restrictions being lifted in the near future, I think that there is a slight uncertainty as to what’s to come, not just for business owners, but for everyone. Having said that, the unrivalled love for independents across Bristol is so amazing. During the first lockdown, we received an overwhelming amount of support from the community and we hope that people’s love for good coffee continues to grow!”