Bakery business is on the rise: How one independent Brighton and Hove company has baked its way through the lockdown

The co-owner of a restaurant and bakery has told how the company has kept baking during the last year and is even opening a new venture.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 6:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 6:02 pm
Founder and co-owner Kane McDowell outside the Sugardough bakery in Hove

Sugardough, which has a restaurant in Market Street, Brighton, plus a bakery and separate cookbook shop, both in Victoria Terrace, Hove, is set to open a unit within a new food hall on Brighton seafront later this month.

The independent company will become one of the food offerings inside the Shelter Hall, with a stall called Tart by Sugardough. The food hall, which opens on Brighton seafront on April 26, will showcase the talents of a variety of local chefs as well as having a weekly events programme. Read more about the Shelter Hall here.

It is great news for Sugardough after the uncertainty that struck for it and so many businesses when lockdown was announced last March.

Co-owner Julie Heylett at Sugardough's cookbook shop Cookbookbake

Julie Haylett, Sugardough co-owner, said: “We are really pleased [about the Shelter Hall], it’s a really nice focus to pull us out lockdown. It’s really exciting, it’s a really nice energising site and it’s great for the staff.”

Tart by Sugardough will serve various hand-made cakes, tarts, savouries as well as delicious-sounding flavoured croissants, such as lemon meringue and strawberries and cream.

The exciting addition means the company is recruiting another five flexible members of staff and one or two full-time team members.

It is not the only positive to come out of the last year for Sugardough. The company embraced the take-away and delivery options allowed during the coronavirus lockdowns and said being a small business meant they could make quick decisions and adapt to make things work.

Flour power: Kane has been busy baking bread to keep up with the demand for deliveries

Julie said: “We are quite pleased with how we have managed the last year. It was difficult and quite scary at first, having to close things down and not knowing what was going to happen. But we moved quickly and changed our offering quickly and our customers really supported us.”

The company did have to close its restaurant and cookbook shop but being able to offer a take-away service from the bakery just off Hove seafront in Victoria Terrace was a real life-line.

The bakery has done well,” said Julie. "We were really pleasantly surprised that people were coming, and people started coming to us in bigger numbers than we were expecting.”

To keep up with demand at the bakery, Julie and co-owner Kane McDowell, decided to expand the range of food on offer and were able to offer staff hours, which has worked particularly well since the flexible furlough scheme came into force.

The owners decided to start a delivery service, too, which included freshly baked bread. There was a huge demand for the home-made bread with orders flooding in, resulting in the team, using just one van, doing several dozen deliveries every morning, seven days a week.

Despite the success of the bakery, the process of having to close and reopen businesses has not been easy. Julie said: "The blunt numbers of the impact are stark – we had to close down our restaurant three times in the last 12 months and reopen it twice! Third time coming up. We have also had to close down our cookbook shop, Cookbookbake three times and open it twice with the third time coming up on April 12. The impact on staff and the energy involved in closing down businesses cannot be underestimated."

Julie added: "Very luckily, although we had to close our tables, our bakery in Hove has been open throughout and has been very well supported by locals. This has meant that we have been able to keep on most of our staff. A year ago we started delivering locally and we still deliver every morning seven days a week."

The deliveries are set to continue and Cookbookbake will be able to reopen on April 12. The shop had been offering deliveries and click and collect during lockdown.

The Sugardough restaurant in Market Street, Brighton, did open last summer and in December when the lockdown was eased and will now reopen fully on May 17.

Julie said with only six tables outside, they decided to wait until they are allowed to reopen inside, too, rather than opening next week.

To find out more about Sugardough, to place a bakery order or book a table at the restaurant, visit https://sugardough.co.uk/