on all orders over £15
on all orders over £15
Hi Kate! So lovely to speak to you today. You are one of Garage’s longest standing wholesale customers, so thank you!! How is it going at Hut 55?!
Hello! Thanks for inviting me. Yes it has been awhile hasn’t it?! We started working with you guys at Garage four years ago, when we opened Hut 55, which, if you don’t know us, is a wooden beach hut café right on the beach in sunny Deal. So thank YOU for keeping us in great beans all that time! Alongside your excellent coffee, we also serve up things like massive homemade baps, offensively large Scotch eggs, loads of cakes and we also do bike hire.
I used to run a café at Deal train station for the commuters and a bike hire business opened up next door and myself and the owner of that became firm mates. In 2018 we came up with the idea of running our businesses on the beach, with decidedly better office views than the train station car park! It really is just the best place to be, with people relaxing and drinking their coffee while lounging in our deckchairs and bean bags looking out to sea. We took over the bike business last year, and alongside that we also run other activities like sunrise yoga classes. Deal seafront is a really special place with people able to enjoy their picnics on our quiet shingle beach or hire bikes and head straight out on the Route One cycle path along the promenade.
We go into hibernation in November (with a hibernation party where we usually don bear onesies and serve up honey cake & toffee apples) and then emerge bleary eyed again in Feb. Our position on the beach is lovely, but it is very exposed to the elements over the winter. We’re also off the grid so when it’s dark & grey, so we often don’t have enough solar power banked to operate. So, at the low season, we take a bit of a break and then start gearing up for the summer madness. We use this quiet time to reassess - which is such a joy because as you know from running coffee shops, it’s often like a runaway train - especially for us being seasonal, the summers are just crazy (in a good way) - but it means you don’t often get chance to take a step back and work out where you want to be going and what you want to be putting out there, so we make the most of our downtime over the Winter to recipe test, plan events and classes for the summer, and do some essential hut maintenance so we can hit the ground running come Spring. Being entirely off grid, we have to keep tinkering with the best way to get all the power we need to operate, so we’re always updating and adding to our power system. You have to be part barista, part engineer to work at the hut!
Ah thanks! We make most of it ourselves, (and whatever we don’t is made by awesome local suppliers). We have a commercial kitchen unit in Deal (with power!) so we bake everything there for the Hut. I never had Mary Berry aspirations, but I’ve always loved baking and entertaining, and so when I started the commuter café I began making things for there and it just snowballed. Now we make a huge array of cakes, cookies, savoury treats and even the chutneys we use in our sandwiches. The Hut has a classic British picnic feel - as there’s nothing better than sitting on a salty beach tucking into doorstop ham baps and a good slice of homemade cake. We like to keep things simple, but done well.
A very important question; what is your personal coffee and cake of choice?!
When I first opened a coffee shop I had no idea what I was doing and no cash - so I ended up leasing a machine tied to a coffee supplier contract to get started, but I quickly realised it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. So when that ended I went on the hunt for a great local coffee supplier to work with. We are lucky to have some incredible roasters down here in Kent and it was important to me to partner with someone local instead of using a big London name and Garage is one of the best. Luke’s knowledge and passion for Garage’s beans instantly came across when we first met, and there’s nothing like working with another small independent business that’s doing cool stuff and pushing themselves, and that also wants to see you succeed - it means we’re all lifting each other up, and that’s special.
How have you and your team managed to adapt to the ever-changing hospitality environment over the last few years?
We had to close our commuter café down during the pandemic as it was no longer viable. That was pretty tough, especially as we had to make staff redundant that we’d worked with for years. That’s never easy. But we picked ourselves up and threw ourselves into efforts down at the beach to ensure that one survived the pandemic. We have always operated as a take away unit but customers used to be able to come inside the Hut to order, so when that had to stop because of Covid, we dragged a table to the front door, took all the fronts out of our picture frames at home thanks to the national Acrylic sheet shortage to create a make shift screen and we started serving out of a hatch instead. We found it worked so much better as a workflow that the following year we remodelled the new layout permanently. Staff shortages were a huge issue last summer both in terms of the number of staff we could find to hire and then people having to be off all the time isolating. I had just had a baby and the lack of staff meant we had to juggle a newborn with working full time so we could stay open. Our team last year worked some kind of miracle all summer - they really didn’t stop. We are hiring now for our seasonal team members so fingers crossed it’s not the same this year and people want to come flooding into hospitality!
What have you got planned for 2022?
The bike hire was always run as a separate business to the café, but now we’ve incorporated them together, it gives us more scope to offer picnics and new, cycling experiences. We also love putting on our morning beach yoga classes and it’s so popular, that we will run more classes and events this summer. Like every business, the last few years have felt very immobilising with plans having to be put on hold - but this summer, we’re just going to go for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun down on the beach this year, bring on the sunshine!