However, that pivot has paid off for the Whistlestop Café in Cosham and owner Sue Hills says she’s hopeful for a brighter future.
The cafe, in Portsmouth Road, is also looking forward to celebrating its second anniversary this month.
During lockdown, Sue changed Whistlestop’s business model from a sit-down café to a takeaway.
Staff at the Whistlestop Café next to Cosham train station. Pictured: The two Jackies, Sue's 20 year old daughter Beth and owner Sue Hills in pink t-shirt, Tina and Jasmine. Picture: Mike Cooter (150721)
Now there are now only a few seats within the café, which overall Sue, 59, describes as ‘working brilliantly’.
Sue, who has always worked within the hospitality industry, said: ‘I opened Whistlestop before Covid struck, during this period we were primarily busy with commuters, but once the pandemic began to worsen, we lost business from all of those customers, so we were severely impacted - then we had to close because of lockdown.
‘However, as soon as we were allowed to reopen, we did so as a takeaway service, which was only possible because of my amazing team, made up of five loyal, flexible workers.
The Whistlestop Café next to Cosham train station. Picture: Mike Cooter (150721)
‘With being a small independent business as well, you don’t get the same help that the bigger franchises get, so we were flying solo.
‘The main reason we were fortunate enough to survive was down to our local customers who continued to visit us when they could, we picked up a lot of passing trade. We also believe in good customer service and finally good, hard teamwork.’
Whistlestop Café sells a variety of food and drink from fresh coffee and cream cakes to hot sausage rolls and meat pies. Its milkshakes, made using soft whippy ice cream, are its best sellers.
Anolther customer served at the busy Whistlestop Café. Picture: Mike Cooter (150721)
Sue, who lives in Denvilles, said: ‘I have always wanted to have my own business, but with having a family, I put my four children first, but now they’re all old enough - I thought why not just go for it!
‘So, that’s what I did, you have to follow your dreams, whatever age you are - you have to follow that dream that you have.’
Story by Sophie Gibbons
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A selection of cakes are available in addition to sandwiches and other takeaway food and drinks. Picture: Mike Cooter (150721)
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Beth Hills (20) - daughter of the owner Sue Hills - ready to take orders at the Whistlestop Café. Picture: Mike Cooter (150721)
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