Coffee shop, bar and restaurant operator Grind has used its successful direct-to-consumer coffee business to subsidise its hospitality side, founder and CEO David Abrahamovitch has said.

Speaking on MCA’s The Conversation, Abrahamovitch said that the coffee business “exploded through lockdown”, which had effectively supported other parts of the business that were shut down. 

Despite the past year being extremely tough, and the business taking on millions of pounds in debt, he said Grind was in good shape financially to bounce back. 

“I have had to make tough decisions and have permanently closed a couple of locations. It has been incredibly difficult for everyone but we are at the lucky end of having some scale, having investors, having a great relationship with our bank […] and actually having lots of institutional landlords who fortunately have been able to be pretty supportive,” he explained.

He said any suggestion that the pain for operators would end on 21 June if all restrictions were lifted “is fantasy”. “The damage stops being inflicted […] but then there’s the process of getting back to where businesses were before this happened,” he said.

Abrahamovitch said that Grind was looking to reopen all of its sites, bar its Bank site in the city, due to question marks over footfall. He said that at the moment operators are operating with two hands behind our back and any form of social distancing like having at least one hand still there.

He also vented his frustration that hospitality had not been allowed to reopen sooner, saying that it made no sense to him that you could walk around Selfridges, for example, but he has to try and eat and drink outside his own restaurants in the rain. “How can we be living in a world where people have decided that this makes any sense. Like everyone I am really frustrated by that,” he said.

He said there were many unknowns about the extent to which footfall will return in central London, and whether it will get back to 2019 levels in some of the locations it has sites in, like Liverpool Street, Covent Garden and Soho.

“The world is a long way from open and particularly in central London. Huge portions of our customers used to be tourists and it doesn’t feel like they are coming back in any great numbers any time soon,” he added.

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