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Make It Worcestershire Case Study: Centenary Lounge, Worcester

Published: Thursday, 20th May 2021 Make It Worcestershire campaign graphic with quote from Aasia Baig, owner of Centenary Lounge, Worcester

Find out how Centenary Lounge adapted their business to succeed during Covid-19 in our first Make It Worcestershire case study.

To kick off our series of Make It Worcestershire case studies, where we chat with local hospitality venues about their businesses, how they adapted to Covid-19, and how they support other local businesses, we caught up with the founder and managing director of Centenary Lounge in Worcester, Aasia Baig. 

Take a look below. 

Tell us about your business.
I’m Aasia Baig, founder and managing director of Centenary Lounge. I have vast experience in both the retail and hospitality industries with a proven track record of successfully starting and seeing to fruition several retail businesses since my inception in business which is just over 28 years. 

Centenary Lounge is a heritage brand, taking inspiration from the stunning railway refreshment rooms of the 1930s Golden Age of Travel. Centenary Lounge first opened in 2009 in Birmingham Moor St Station. Currently, there are three locations, two in Birmingham and one in Worcester which opened in April 2019. 

Centenary Lounge has received many awards and has also featured on a BBC TV Drama!

Our most recent was when our Worcester branch was shortlisted for the global Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2020 in two categories; Cafe (UK) and Heritage Building (UK). One of our other very proud moments for sure is when Sir William McAlpine endorsed our giftware in 2012 as he loved how true they were to the originals. We were also awarded the SBS award (Small Business Sunday) by Theo Paphitis in 2013.

During 2019, Centenary Lounge embarked on its expansion vision by opening its flagship store in Worcester. As with any new business starting in a new place from scratch, it takes time to build trust and a loyal customer following, but we were doing quite well for our first year and Christmas and leading up to the pandemic our diaries were pretty full until the end of April! 
 

Were you and your business able to adapt when restrictions were introduced?
We pivoted very quickly. It was quite odd actually as back in January 2020 we looked into developing our home delivery service.  Then when the global pandemic hit in March, we had to quickly put that idea to the top of our list and launched our local delivery service in April 2020. Our afternoon tea home deliveries were our biggest sellers during May and June.

Towards the end of June, delivery sales dropped and we think this was due to the larger chains starting to offer takeout food. This was when we decided as some restrictions had eased to open our physical doors and offer take-away food and cocktails.

Adapting to local delivery and takeaway was a natural way to instantly pivot, but we wanted to create a more holistic offering in keeping with our brand and therefore launched our online giftware range available nationally including branded hampers, GWR crockery, afternoon teas and bespoke corporate gift service, creating an all-inclusive ecosystem.

I have also taken this time to work on the franchise model for Centenary Lounge and have just launched this exciting part of the business.

How have you collaborated with other businesses and producers throughout the pandemic?
With so many talented local businesses and producers on our doorstep, who were also facing similar challenges due to the pandemic, it really was a no brainer for us to collaborate with them; especially for items for our giftware hampers and afternoon tea offering. Such as chutneys, preserves, cheese, bread, biscuits, cakes and even our gin! Our scones and some cakes are also made in Centenary Lounge by our chefs. 

What is the importance of supporting other local produce, producers and businesses?
There are so many reasons for supporting all things local especially considering we are a local and small business ourselves.

My personal view is to create an eco-system encompassing a variety of factors which include a more prosperous community as this allows us to invest directly into our local economy, plus also reducing our carbon footprint and creating a more sustainable community.

Plus, if you’re a creative like me, you can actually work with the producers directly, speak about your vision, experiment with ideas and create unique collaborations and partnerships. Business then becomes fun and exciting and this feeling of ingenuity and authenticity feeds through to your customers and community at large.

Why is important for residents to support their local produce, producers and businesses as we begin to move out of Covid-19?

Fortunately, the pandemic has created a greater sense of awareness of local produce, producers and businesses. This momentum is very much needed post covid-19 restrictions to boost economic growth in local communities. 

I also believe the post covid-19 recovery will be hospitality-led. With retail stores including major retailers such as Debenhams, Arcadia Group amongst many others closing their doors forever, this will lead to a big gaping hole on our High Streets.  

Hospitality will play a crucial role in returning the High Street back to its vitality and potential and many of these will be small independent businesses. If we could all continue to support each other, this will help keep more money in the local community, creating more employment and therefore more to spend, all equalling to a much stronger economy. 

 

Want to know more about Centenary Lounge? Visit the Centenary Lounge website to book your visit, or order local goodies to enjoy at home.

If you'd like to find out more about the Make It Worcestershire campaign, visit the Make It Worcestershire webpage on the One Worcestershire website.

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