The Restaurant Race to Reopen During a Global Pandemic with Maple Founder, Adria Wu

During the current Coronavirus pandemic, we have seen industries grow and thrive, but we have already witnessed the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry. With a stiff halt on all cafes, bars, and restaurants, I look to see if it has been all things negative for them.

I caught up with Adria Wu, a healthy eatery entrepreneur who you may recognise from Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, or teaching at the College of Naturopathic medicine – and she shed some promising light on the whole situation.

1. With owning 8 Eateries across London during a pandemic, what positives and negatives has this brought to you and your company (Maple & Co)?

Quickly on the negative front, the first and foremost is missing our customers and business partners. The people we have known for years. It has been so hard for us to stay in touch with our regulars  personally during the closure of the shops. Then, of course, comes the complete loss of revenue, and loss of jobs, our stores had been closed for more than five months, it was the whole uncertainty of it all!

It has been tough, financially, and mentally. There is no certainty around anything anymore.  Now it is about being agile, being flexible, being able to morph with the uncertainty to make it work. My team and I worked so hard in the past and now we have had to start again. In saying all this, one of the greatest positives to see was Maple’s team morale. The team bound together like a family, although there were some challenging conversations for sure. Whether it was junior or management level, they were always considerate of each other and the circumstances, lifting the morale and the spirit.

It could have been very easy for the team to blame me and the business during those difficult conversations, but everyone was super supportive. Something I noticed during the first lockdown was how incredibly resilient humans are. We will recover from this. Look at the recession in 2008, some of the most innovative businesses were born from that. Two main companies that come to mind are Uber and AirBnB – two businesses that have transformed our lives.

2. How did you cope with lockdown, did you take up any hobbies that kept you motivated?

It was a nice time to reflect, chill out, and understand my own personal goals in life. I was able to spend a lot more time with my daughter, which was amazing. My husband and I both work in hospitality so we are constantly on the go, being able to spend more time as a family was great. We had some long discussions about where we wanted to be in 5-10 years which reinforced our bond, although do not get me wrong, sometimes I wanted to kill him (haha).

In terms of hobbies, I just kept cooking. I am cooking more than ever. You see, our food in Maple is made fresh every morning in-store, so the staff knew all our recipes. It was so nice to see them still cooking in the comfort of their homes and we shared ideas (it was amazing). I think this kept us all motivated. It certainly kept me motivated!

3. If you have any advice for people in the same position, what would you say to them?

It is all of us, versus the pandemic.

It is important to remember that you are not alone. I think, the more you keep inside, the harder it is to battle through it. Talking to people in the same industry, in other industries and just sharing, going through the emotions together, helps! Like I said from the beginning, we will get through this. So, one main thing is just to stay social, it is important for our mental health and as well that we retain all relationships with others!

4. What are the future plans for maple? If you want to share some.

We have got some very exciting things ahead. I have an amazing team and a very supportive board, so instead of rushing and trying to do as many things as possible, we used this time to take a step back and work strategically. This has allowed us to focus on our future business model and plans and we are in a very fortunate place now. We thought “innovation is key”, so how can we better connect with our customers? We understand the shift in the way people behave and how now, we can support and leverage new technologies, to achieve an outstanding customer experience.

Personally, I have upped my online teaching game. I am cooking from my kitchen and streaming live. I bought some cool gadgets to help me with editing and lighting, so it is going great! I love teaching, it’s what I was made for, and being able to do it virtually is wonderful! At Maple, we have just launched our new click and collect (check it out on the gram) and we have adopted an omni channel distribution. We’ve never been a single channel brand, but we are now interacting with customers on all fronts. Same team, same food, same method – just presented differently. Watch this space because we have some really cool tech stuff coming up in the next 6 months.

By Naomi Baird