The whole world has changed in the first months of 2020. All governments put in place differing responses and measures to slow the spread of the Corona Virus. The fear is that health systems might collapse under huge demand, then the ensuing problems would lead to mass deaths, rioting, looting and worse. So lockdowns came. In The Netherlands we got a mixed lockdown. Lots of businesses were forced to close, but we could still go out for a walk. Tourism effectively ended and in Amsterdam everyday looked like a quiet Sunday morning, as people mostly stayed at home. How can we do a healthy fightback against Corona?
This lockdown is having a catastrophic effect on all areas of the economy, but especially : tourism, entertainment, the arts, retail, transport and hospitality. As we start to slowly unwind some measures, I thought it would be interesting to ask a local expat entrepreneur, how her business was affected by the Corona Virus and how she will adapt to the New Normal. Paula is originally from Poland, has a British husband, three children and runs her food and drinks business in central Amsterdam, Juice By Nature. We learnt more about her ‘Healthy Fightback Against Corona’.
In the heart of Amsterdam
Cycling home through the quiet streets of Amsterdam last week, I happened upon a place that was open for takeaways. It was a beautiful day and I was thirsty, so I parked up my bike and went to order. I met Paula and she was happy to have a client in these quiet times. It was just water I wanted and Paula convinced me to try one of her cold pressed juices. I am not a juice drinker usually, but was happy to try something new. Then I ordered a salad too. It was now that I really understood Paula’s central aim. She wants to ‘Make healthy delicious’. People will order the healthier choice if it is presented in a way that is both easy on the eye and the taste buds. She told me that well over 90% of the food ordered with home delivery services, is junk food, pizzas, burgers, etc. She wants people to order healthier food and that is her goal.
Paula started Juice By Nature four years ago in the Woemersstraat (number 108). That is right in the beating heart of Amsterdam, about a 1 minute walk from Dam Square. Many of the businesses in that street also offer food and drink, but they tend to be pubs, pizzerias, fast food or pancakes. Paula’s stands out and that is why I stopped there. The others are also mostly closed at the moment too. This whole area used to be thronging with people. Not just tourists, but lots of local businesses and offices are here too. Now the quiet is shocking.
Paula is very friendly, so I wanted to find out more about how a business like hers is surviving through these times.
Q1. As a local entrepreneur in the restaurant business, in what ways did the Corona Virus affect your business ?
Juice by Nature went from being on one of the busiest streets in Amsterdam, Warmoesstraat to having 10 people passing every hour. It is unrecognisable. Nearly everything in the area is closed. I decided to do the takeaways because there is the occasional passing client and because we can still do home deliveries. But also because I built this business from nothing and I want to fight for it, all the while respecting the safety of our staff and clients.
Q2. How did you adapt to survive this period ?
We had to let most of the staff go unfortunately. People that I trained and cherished and I felt were committed to my vision to make healthy eating delicious. We now work with a really reduced team and I am very hands on.
Q3. How will you change your methods as we start to open up again ?
We were always a café that valued feeling comfortable over making profits, so tables were always far apart. People will come to pick up food at the counter rather than a table service. This is a shame for me personally, as whenever I am in the store I love to speak with customers, for no other reason than I love to communicate with other people. People buy from people. Yes, we have amazing healthy products, but we all always worked hard to make coming to us a fun and enjoyable experience on a personal level.
Q4. How do you see the next 12 months moving forward?
The next 12 months will be extremely tough. Tourism will come back very slowly. I hope that people will want to eat healthier and the growth of veganism will continue. We will continue to grow our take out and delivery service. Also, we will deliver more and more directly to customers in their homes. We are able to deliver juices early, fresh pressed that morning in the café and of course, all our delicious food menu items. We are really doing a ‘Healthy Fightback Against Corona’.
Q5. What are you most looking forward to as the country opens up again stage by stage?
I am looking forward to tourism coming back but hopefully a more discerning tourist, as our mayor also hopes. I am happy if we have half the tourists but they are health conscious and a credit to their countries.
Thank for your insights Paula. It was really interesting to understand how a small local business can do a healthy fightback against Corona. We wish you well in the coming months.