Faced with an enforced closure just weeks after opening, the Alpaca pub in Islington, north London, flipped its business model on its head to continue generating much-needed revenue.
Question everything about your business model
When The Alpaca pub in north London re-opened in March 2020 under new management after six months of refurbishment works, Lucas Owen, the owner, was cursing his luck. An entire business strategy was thrown out of the window, and potentially with it a six-figure investment.
Unperturbed by a potentially devastating impact, Owen repurposed his business model in search of new revenue streams. Supported by an effective social media campaign and a local community spirit the pandemic uncovered, The Alpaca turned into a takeaway drinks service, offering not only pints in takeaway cups, but cans and bottles of craft beers and ciders, as well as its own cocktail concoctions, labelled and bottled on site. Owen even introduced a food service which included Sunday roasts and smaller plates, complete with at-home cooking instructions.
The hospitality sector – pubs and restaurants in particular – had to think on their feet when they were forced to close their doors. But crisis is often a catalyst for creativity; a creativity nurtured by excellent problem solving skills. Like Finch’s complete reinvention of his traditional church service, pubs such as The Alpaca manufactured a new method of running their business. They questioned the fundamentals: why did they need to continue operating in the same way? What can they do differently?
Other sectors embraced this lateral thinking too. When flights across the world were grounded due to cancellations and closed borders, commercial airlines turned their dormant fleet into cargo planes which were able to transport vital medical items and protective equipment. When hospitals in Italy were overwhelmed with patients and were struggling to cope with shortages of hospital beds, especially in intensive care wards, two Italian architects designed an intensive care pod made from a shipping container. And when live performances were cancelled and theatres and events venues were forced to close, those in the entertainment industry saw their income completely wiped out.
Performers needed a new way to connect with their audience, which they found in the form of the burgeoning podcast industry. Several have since pivoted towards a Patreon service; a platform for fans to pay their favourite entertainers for bonus content. In lieu of a paying audience, performers have had to market themselves to an entirely online crowd. Each of these organisations and individuals managed to not only survive but thrive, with each pivot leading to new opportunities. The Alpaca now has a vibrant community of locals who will continue to visit. Airlines aren’t paying expensive parking fees to airports. Entertainers are able to grow their fanbase by reaching new supporters.
Each of these organisations and individuals managed to not only survive but thrive, with each pivot leading to new opportunities. The Alpaca now has a vibrant community of locals who will continue to visit. Airlines aren’t paying expensive parking fees to airports. Entertainers are able to grow their fanbase by reaching new supporters.
Each story demonstrates an acceptance that the definition of ‘normal’ isn’t fixed; a decision has been chosen to explore new avenues because of this. This mantra is relevant for all parts of your business, not just your revenue model.
Repurpose your surplus
The pandemic turned many city centres into ghost towns overnight. Skyscraper office buildings, which would house thousands of workers every weekday, became almost uninhabited. Retail outlets across city centres closed temporarily, either through lack of trade or to protect those workers who could do their job remotely. Several commercial banks saw an opportunity. Reluctant to send their workforces back into their HQ building, the banks repurposed their high street branches that were sitting unused and transformed them into office spaces. The result? Surplus real estate was utilised and their staff didn’t have to take public transport across a large city and cram themselves into lifts and office space at the bank’s HQ.
Just like Finch’s church food bank and commercial airlines’ switch to cargo, the bank sensed an opportunity to utilise its leftover resources efficiently. Another industry decided to do something similar, although this time it repurposed its human resources, rather than its physical assets.