The holiday season is going to look very different for most people this year. That’s definitely true for passionate travellers, extroverts and anyone who is wired to sharing their lives with others. Some categories are struggling more than others in the face of the uncertainty and isolation created by the current pandemic and consequent measures. The life of small independent businesses, in particular, has been disrupted in many ways... luckily not all negative!
We caught up with some of the local businesses featured in the Yays Neighbourhood Guide to Amsterdam to see how they were doing and found out that, despite the huge challenges they have been dealing with lately, they have a lot in store for this Christmas and New Year’s Eve!
That's going to be good news for our guests taking advantage of our Christmas Staycation Deal (click here to discover it)!
Read on for stories of community, creativity and resilience from the neighbourhood!
As an aparthotel brand with the mission of unlocking the neighbourhood for curious travellers looking for meaningful and unique travel experiences, at Yays we have been keeping an eye on small businesses in our neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. We reached out for this blog post, asking them to share some of the challenges they had to face in the past few months, alongside some uplifting stories.
The accounts we received from them prove that small businesses really are like families: all the local entrepreneurs we contacted for this post mentioned as their first concern the priority to keep all their team members safe and onboard and to come out on the other side of the pandemic together.
As we write, restaurants in Amsterdam are only allowed to provide pick-up, delivery, and takeout options, but this didn’t discourage our neighbours!
Yays guests staying in Amsterdam during this holiday season are in for some amazing treats!
The Gouden Reael on Zandhoek 14 is one of the restaurants that has been featured in the Yays Neighbourhood Guide to Amsterdam West for more editions. Right around the corner from Yays Zoutkeetsgracht and not far from Yays Bickersgracht, it is set in a historic building with the gable stone that gives it its name shining on its façade. As of 2020, the restaurant is under the direction of the Caron family, a prestigious name in the field of gastronomy.
We asked Julian Louw, manager of De Gouden Reael how they reacted to the first wave of the pandemic.
During the first lockdown, we adapted quickly to the new situation and used our three kitchens [from other restaurants] in preparations of a weekly changing menu for people at home: “Caron à la Maison”. This went one to be a great success serving about 400 - 600 guests every week with our take-out 3-course menu.
[…]In the summer, with the hard work of our team, we made up quite well for time wasted and were happy to have a lot of guests finding their way to the Realeneiland. In the summertime de Gouden Reael is beautiful, with a very large terrace with a view of de IJ river and the canals closer by. Even complying with social distancing rules, we still had enough room to welcome a lot of people.
So what are your plans for the holiday seasons?
We did decide to go on and do one big project for the lockdown which was our “Kerst met Caron” [‘Christmas with Caron’] menu. A 4-course menu delivered at home for the holidays between 15th and 30th December. Our kitchen guys have been working hard in producing a very tasty and festive menu for a lovely (French) Christmas at home which will be delivered at home by TringTring, a sustainable delivery-service for the city with e-bikes. A big project which keeps us busy for the moment. Of course, it is not the same as welcoming guests to our restaurant over the holiday season and seeing people smile as the leave the restaurant after a great night. But just as everything this year, we adapt to the current situation and make the best out of it!
What’s your takeaway from this experience?
On the upside, the pandemic did make us re-evaluate our business model and our operations and made us more aware of costs versus revenues, the positive thing is that it made us more agile and without losing our wonderful team, we’ve worked hard to keep everyone on and making sure they don’t lose their jobs. Everybody is just ready to bounce back, open and welcome guests at Gouden Reael!
In the same area, close to both Yays Zoutkeetsgracht and Yays Bickersgracht, Pikoteo is one of the favourite spots with Yays guests. Run by two friends – Madrid-born chef Miguel and Dutch manager Florian – it’s appreciated for both its cuisine with Spanish influences and amazing cocktails.
We spoke to Florian, who reassured us they are lively as ever, despite the challenges.
The most complex thing for us during this pandemic, business-wise, is keeping our team and ourselves motivated in the face of uncertainty.
Going to work 4 / 5 days a week in an empty restaurant without the potential of guests showing up is very demotivating, considering our team does this job because of their love of hospitality. As owners, we do our best to stay positive at all times, especially around our team. We include them in every decision and are open and honest about the pandemic and its consequences. Through doing this we try to give them the tools they need and to keep them as happy as possible whilst working in this difficult time.
No matter the challenges, stoves and shakers are always active, at Pikoteo!
We are open 7 days a week between 17:00 and 21:00 for delivery or take-away. This December we celebrate our 5-year anniversary, and although a big celebration party will need to be delayed till 2021, we invited our regulars to drop by and have a glass of gluhwein or bubbles with us. Even if safely distanced, we really enjoyed seeing them.
What’s in store for Christmas?
Together with our friends from restaurant Branie, we’re creating a take-away Xmas and NYE dinner.
We’re offering a 4-course meal including 2 welcome cocktails and a bottle of wine.
What are your learnings from this experience?
This pandemic forces you to become more creative in every aspect of the business.
As many restaurants, we turned our business around completely, into a delivery- and take-away restaurant. Besides that, we have re-evaluated all aspects of the business, to increase our overall efficiency.
Something that made me extremely happy over the last few months is the tremendous amount of support we have received, from neighbours, regular guests, friends and suppliers.
It’s heart-warming to see how people can come together during difficult times. Two examples come to mind. The first: we have a guest who since the start of the pandemic has been visiting 4 times a week to pick up some food and the occasional drink to support us, see how we are doing and to make sure we survive as a company.
The second: a friend of ours surprised us with a well-coordinated action with 60 people from all over the world. They all purchased a gift card of the restaurant at the same time. So two weeks ago, out of nowhere our inbox suddenly exploded with purchases on our website.
Things like these give us the motivation and energy we need to carry on.
All the way in Amsterdam East, we found the same grit and enthusiasm at our neighbours of Café-Restaurant de Plantage.
Jorinde van Gent from de Plantage told us of how they had to get creative after the closure of all bars and restaurants for regular service in October.
Immediately we have started turning our regular restaurant into a small take-away service. We sell some of our regular snacks, dips, starters, main courses and wine. Every week we arrange a new menu which can be ordered online and picked up in the shop or delivered by our own staff in the neighbourhood. For passers-byes coming out of the zoo or taking a walk, we also have a coffee stand on the Artis-square, where we also a selection of snacks to take away, as well as fresh churros and grilled cheese sandwiches. With these initiatives, we hope to earn some money in these hard times and also to keep our staff occupied and together.
Jorinde too had some encouraging stories to share:
A very nice side-effect from opening our takeaway is that we get to see all of our regulars every week in the shop. We are located in a very engaged neighbourhood, with a lot of people who normally drop by for coffee, lunch or dinner multiple times a week or even multiple times a day in regular times. As staff, management and owners we miss these people of course, as they are the reason we chose this business, but because of their enduring engagement with our restaurant, we can continue to see them and serve our products on a weekly basis.
The grit and enthusiasm of these local businesses make us proud of being part of their community. If you are staying at Yays in Amsterdam with our current Christmas Staycation Deal, don’t forget to pop by and share some love!
[Photos courtesy of De Gouden Reael, Pikoteo and De Plantage]
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