New-look cafe could be recipe for success
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
HALLOUMI fries, seasonal vegetable soups and a tantalising array of freshly baked cakes have seen customers beating a hasty return to the newly branded Kitchen by the Lake, at The Hub, in Barnard Castle.
The rebranding and reopening of the cafe within the charity venue is the latest initiative by chief executive Rachel Tweddle as part of efforts to increase footfall at the facility, which opened nearly nine years ago.
Ms Tweddle said opening the cafe during the day had been largely down to customer demand.
She added: “We have six business units here at The Hub, including the mini-buses, and they all need loving care and that takes money.”
Specialist evening events, including music festivals and beer festivals, have proved to be a big draw, especially now the venue has an alcohol licence.
Ms Tweddle added the venue has increased the number of clubs, groups and societies using it on a regular basis during the day and evening.
She said: “We had lots of people asking if we could open the cafe during the day and it seems ridiculous not to have it running.
“It takes a lot of money to run this place.
“The kitchen is used a fair bit, especially for when we have residential stays. But it made sense to use it more, as it’s a full catering kitchen.”
She added: “We could have got another company in to run the cafe, but that would have caused problems.
“Logistically, we still need to have access to it because of the accommodation we have here.”
After considering all the options Ms Tweddle decided to trial the daytime opening for a limited period to ensure there was not just an appetite from customers for it, but that it could sustain itself in the future.
So instead of initially employing a chef to run the kitchen, she has been juggling her day job running The Hub, with whipping up mouthwatering morsels including chocolate brownies and a range of autumnal soups made from vegetables grown in its own garden.
She added: “We have different clubs and groups each week and there are different demands and I took time to find out their needs and what they wanted.
“The day-time opening has been going really well and it’s great to see so many people popping into to have a coffee and a cafe and have a chat.
“When we looked at doing this it would have been a big thing to employ a full time chef, just in case it didn’t work out. So I decided to run it as a trial with me in the kitchen. I did set a time limit of a month, and that’s nearly up, but realistically we’ll probably run like this until Christmas and then if it is still as popular we would be looking at employing someone. It’s really exciting, but tiring at the same time.”
The Kitchen by the Lake is open on a daily basis and has a range of home-made cakes, toasties, halloumi fries and freshly made soups.