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Aberdeen’s Foodstory opens new portable cafe at beachfront to safeguard city centre venue

Lara Bishop and Jonny Chirnside of Foodstory.
Lara Bishop and Jonny Chirnside of Foodstory.

Popular Aberdeen vegetarian and vegan coffee house, Foodstory, has launched its own pop-up portable cafe on Aberdeen’s beach promenade.

Located at the Fittie end of the beachfront, owners Lara Bishop and Sandy McKinnon opened the business last week in a bid to help their “mothership” cafe on Thistle Street, which lost around £60,000 last year due to the pandemic.

The business partners purchased the trailer earlier in the year in April and spent three months refurbishing it to turn it into a beach hut that could “handle the north-east weather”.

Lara Bishop inside the Foodstory beach hut.

The journey

Picking the former Italian pizza hut trailer up near Sheffield, it took Lara and Sandy a 19-hour round trip to get the Ebay purchase home.

Lara said: “We needed to find something on wheels. We knew it would get battered on the beach so we had to think outside the box.

“We got cladding from Bristol and made it industrial looking – we wanted a container on wheels but it was hard to find.

The beach hut is based near the Fittie side of the promenade.

“We left at 2am and picked it up near Sheffield. We got back at 9pm as our van wouldn’t connect with the trailer for hours. Luckily we got it on the road!

“The idea was to help fund the cafe as it got so badly hit by Covid and we didn’t get support in the first year. We lost around £60,000. We had put money aside to open another cafe but all of that money went into our survival.”

The new arrival wouldn’t have been made possible had Foodstory not received a loan as a result of the pandemic.

This loan is what helped the team purchase the trailer and transform it into the beach hut.

Lara Bishop with team member Jonny Chirnside.

She added: “The cafe is such a massive venue, the only way to keep it sustainable is to have other small cafes around the city and Aberdeenshire. All of the food is produced in this mothership venue and because Cafe Zero which is at Aberdeen University was closed, we needed something else to help.

“We got a loan because of Covid and looked into adding a place at the beach. Buying a cafe was too much money and there was a lot of risk. But the beach hut made sense.

“I live in Fittie and I realised there’s not really local shops there and it got me thinking where residents get sourdough, jam and eggs. Everyone was having to go to big supermarkets. During lockdown everyone wanted to support local so we put something along the promenade so they could get some basics from a local business.

Eight painful months

Putting in an application to the council eight months ago for a space along the beach, it is only now that the firm has clearance to operate.

Open Friday to Sunday from 10am to 3pm, the beach hut joins a range of other businesses who have “popped up” at the beachfront, bringing with it healthier options.

Some pastries and cakes available.

Lara added: “We have sourdough vegan pastries, cruffins from SourCloud, sourdough pain au chocolat and croissants, and then our cinnamon buns.

“We have brownies, carrot cake and all of the other usuals you’d expect to see at the cafe.

The foccacia.

“We also have sourdough, focaccia and salads as well, and in winter we’ll look to do toasties and that sort of thing.

“I guess we’re the healthier option at the beach. Most of our products are vegan, and everything else is vegetarian. There’s a lot of gluten-free options too.”

Carting water from one end of town to the other

But the main problem facing Lara and her team is access to running water. With the beach hut not plumbed, a member of staff is carting fresh water to the venue every day.

“It is very different to the cafe as you have to get water for it. There’s no water supply so you have to drag 25 litres of water down the promenade. We’ve had to figure out what to do with the water waste of cleaning things etc.

“We’ve got a guy who works for us who takes the liquid waste and brings it back to the cafe where we can drain it. He was an Uber driver and he will refill it and then bring more water down for us.

“At the moment we’ve got one person at the beach hut. Come September we’ll have a more permanent team down there to run it and the university cafe.”

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