One Crisis – Two Fronts: When You Become a Supplier and Online Retailer Overnight

The Askitis in Düsseldorf has existed for 20 years now - an institution in Düsseldorf. Right now, the corona crisis is causing revenue losses of up to 80%. Arthur Fuchs and his partners Erkan and Samet Karakaya have to rethink in order to survive the current crisis. In addition, there is also the local speciality coffee-roasting business, the Schvarz Kaffee. Does the concept need to be rethought here? A conversation with Arthur Fuchs about both locations.

Askitis in Düsseldorf has been around since 2000.

Mr Fuchs, what is the current situation in your restaurant Askitis?

Before the crisis, Askitis employed 15 to 20 people. Now most of them are on short-time work and the three of us, as owners, are trying to keep the business going. Unfortunately, there is not much work to do at the moment, so the three of us can manage it. Our family members help where they can. Luckily, overall the year has been good so far, so we have been able to manage very well. From April on it will be difficult, since we have no idea what to expect.

You have a lot of regulars; how are they reacting to the current situation?

Our regulars are very concerned; we can almost feel a kind of ‘patriotism’. Generally speaking, I feel like people are sticking together more. For the first time there is a sense that people need local, unique businesses. I can remember, about ten years ago, restaurant chains were more hip. That has changed and people are asking: Hey, what is happening in my neighbourhood? I think that is because a good restaurant in the neighbourhood is ultimately an enrichment for all of us. The people in our area appreciate it.

For the most part, many of our dishes are very good stock items. Items that do not keep well, such as fresh fish or dishes that get soggy, were simply removed from the menu.

Arthur Fuchs

How is the restaurant operation evolving in the current situation? Are you delivering?

We have the benefit of being in a densely populated residential area, allowing us to reach the people relatively quickly with flyers. At first, we only had a pick-up service; now we also deliver from Monday to Sunday between 3 PM and 10 PM. We do all the driving ourselves – upon request even to more distant parts of town, but then with a minimum order value. For the most part, many of our dishes are very good stock items. Items that do not keep well, such as fresh fish or dishes that get soggy, were simply removed from the menu.

And how are things coming along at Schvarz Kaffee and the coffee-roasting business?

 The same applies here. Due to the current situation, we are only using half the employees because there is less demand for roasting and the entire training and catering division has been eliminated. Since we specialised in supplying restaurateurs and offices we lost 95% of our regular customers. In return, there was suddenly a huge increase in the number of private customers placing orders.

Because everyone is now working from home?

Yes, working from home is really working out well for us. People want to continue to drink good coffee at home. In the last two weeks we have seen a 500% increase. Nevertheless, we are experiencing a drop in sales, since private customers obviously do not order the same quantities of coffee as, for example, a restaurateur. In any case, our concept has changed completely. All the sudden we are an online shop operator and mainly supply the customers ourselves.

Every crisis offers an opportunity and that is how I see it for now

Arthur Fuchs

How are you tackling this abrupt change?

We have been working on designing an online shop for four years now and were able to set up a functioning system for the shop. But every coffee roaster or business that is just starting an online shop or is trying to suddenly switch to one due to the current situation will possibly have problems for a short while.

Is it fair to say that the corona crisis has opened up a new line of business for the café?

Definitely. Every crisis offers an opportunity and that is how I see it for now. The response to our online shop and delivery service was so overwhelming that we are actually considering delivering to our private customers at least on weekends in the future and continuing with offices and catering during the week. We can easily imagine that this could continue to be a small source of income.




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