From his window looking out onto Murray Street, Scott Adams, chef/owner of Benny’s Bistro and The French Baker, paints a picture of a vibrant Market, where business owners support each other.
“I’ve read all this garbage online about the ByWard Market. They’re spreading all this doom and gloom. I see the positive side, my business has rebounded to 70 per cent,” says Adams. “Of course it’s a massive challenge, but I’m interested in pivoting, rather than laying down and dying.”
The biggest challenge for Adams was to become more active online, and to build a take-out operation from scratch. But he notes much of his recent success has been by word of mouth.
Like everyone else, Adams closed up shop in March. The first few weeks were spent renovating the 25-year-old bakery; it was hard to find labour and materials, so he rolled up his sleeve and added some basic carpentry skills to his portfolio. Then he cleaned up his web sites and started to think about how to “pivot” amid the closures.
“I’ve never done takeout mainly because it doesn’t represent my product,” says Adams. “It arrives at someone’s house and it’s not what I envisioned. I feel like our brand is more important than that.” He says he’s enjoyed many takeout meals, but nothing that has impressed him in a special way. His solution? Traditional bistro dishes, prepared in the traditional French way, then frozen. “Ironically, by freezing, that’s how I guarantee that standard.”
Now, Adams is offering a limited bistro menu and bakery menu, available from Thursday to Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Just phone or email your order, or stop by the store; payments are made by credit or debit.
Adams adds that the changes to his working life have brought new insights that could inform his post-Covid business.
“You learn a lot about your business, and learn new strategies,” says Adams. For example, why not offer these meals all the time? Why not have reservations for bread? “People love our almond croissants. It would be nice to be able to reserve some bread and croissants and come at 3 p.m. and have it waiting for you. It’s actually a faster way to do business. So it’s not all negative.”