Romilla Arber of the Honesty Group on creating a local supply chain

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 July 2020

Saddleback Farm Shop

Saddleback Farm Shop


If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we need to create a new local supply chain, focussing on quality products on our doorstep.

Honesty Group  Inkpen general storeHonesty Group Inkpen general store

You only have to recall the panic in the supermarkets during the early weeks of the pandemic, with the shelves looking scarily bare, to see our food supply chain was breaking down.

Never has it been more clear that we need to create a local supply chain, where consumers are less fussed about having access to every single item all of the time, but instead focussed on quality produce that is on their doorstep.

The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard during this pandemic, but some of our local businesses have put aside their own struggles to continue doing everything they can to support their community.

The Honesty Group is a true example of this. Owner Romilla Arber says: “It has been, without a doubt, the most challenging time we’ve had at Honesty Group. We are hugely grateful to the community for their continued support whilst we adapted the business to try to serve them better during this unsettling and uncertain time.”

Romilla ArberRomilla Arber

The Honesty Group converted their Inkpen coffee shop at the Crown & Garter into a general food store to support the community and launched a contactless doorstep delivery service for the elderly and those in isolation.

“Inkpen has blossomed during lockdown,” says Romilla. “Saddleback Farm Shop also converted into a delivery service for the community. We were glad to bring some light relief to some dark days with our VE Day celebration boxes. Adapting the business from what we normally do has been rewarding and we’ve come away brimming with ideas for the future.

“We really have used this time to go down deep into the business to use every aspect of it. We’ve been able to focus on where our food comes from, we’ve spent time looking at the structure and any issues, and also essential purchasing. We’ve also spent time training staff and embracing a better website for online purchasing.

Crown & GarterCrown & Garter

“However, being closed for 
so long has put a huge financial strain on the business so we’re looking forward to re-opening stronger than ever before.”

In light of the recent Government guidelines, the Honesty Group are now further able to open all of their coffee shops except Honesty Bucklebury, Honesty Houghton Lodge and Honesty at Herongate Club, serving coffees, freshly baked bread and pastries and light lunch options to takeaway. Strict social distancing and hygiene measures will be put in place across the board to ensure both customers and staff are safe.

Honesty Group hope to re-open for both dine-in and takeaway from 4 July, with physical distancing measures in place, subject to government advice.

“Supporting local businesses at a time like this has never been more vital. I hope lockdown has illustrated to people the importance of a local and diverse food supply chain. By purchasing local, if something like this ever happened again, there would be less people involved to break the chain, it would be more sustainable and environmentally viable, and essentially, more money is kept in the local community.

“We have been here to fill in the gaps, and we hope our loyal customers will feel safe in the knowledge that we will put the strictest measures in place to protect them. We truly can’t wait to see them again and we hope we can count on their support in return. I have no doubt there are more challenges to come but if we stick together, we can overcome anything.”

As for their cookery school, Romilla says they are hoping to open back up again in September, as the barn is such a large place it is possible to social distance safely. I was lucky enough to visit the school just before lockdown. Turn over to read all about it.

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