The Barn – 2.0

We are excited to share some news about the development of The Barn at Rothiemurchus. We’re also going to answer some of your questions and feedback that we have received over the last year on the developments so far. We’ve also provided some of the background and reasoning to the decisions and changes that we’ve made.

We know that many of our customers were just as sad as we were to see the closure of The Druie cafe. It was a favourite place for locals to meet up regularly with friends, and for visitors to enjoy a lunch or coffee each time they visited Rothiemurchus. However, the constraints of its small size meant that under Covid 19 regulations we could only fit 3 tables in this space. This made it financially unviable and in 2020 we were forced to take the very difficult decision to close this well-loved cafe that had served locals and visitors for many years.

Over Summer 2020 our team worked incredibly hard under canvas, providing delicious hot food and drinks for visitors using a gas BBQ and coffee machine. They continued to work outside until late October when the weather made it too cold for them to continue safely. With a challengingly small budget our options for next steps were limited. We chose to recycle and re-use as much as we could of the existing infrastructure. In a short timeframe, thanks to the hard work of the estate maintenance team, we built a kitchen and created a socially distanced rustic, dry space with seating – The Barn.

Alongside all other hospitality businesses in the area and indeed the country, we have struggled to recruit the number of staff we would like. However, over the last 12+ months and despite additional lockdowns and changing restrictions, we have welcomed unprecedented numbers of visitors. This combination of factors has led us to take a pro-active and enterprising approach to the way we operate.

Vegware® – sustainable convenience
At the start of the pandemic we chose to move to serving food and drink in Vegware® compostable cups, cutlery and takeaway packaging. This solution was designed to keep the team within small working bubbles. It allows our small team to focus on cooking and serving customers rather than washing up dishes and cutlery. It also keeps everyone safe by reducing contact between staff and customers. We ask customers to take their trays over to the bins where the Vegware is placed in separate bins from general waste. We initially planned to reintroduce crockery at the end of this busy summer period. However, these plans have been delayed due to the ongoing staffing crisis within the hospitality industry, alongside consistently high visitors throughout the usually quieter autumn months.

Order at the door
Our ongoing low staff numbers is also the reason we have chosen to take orders at the entrance till rather than at the table. Here we ask customers to choose from our blackboard menu, which we update on a daily basis with alternating specials.

The Old School Building
Meanwhile, the old school building has also undergone some changes. Its old layout did not make it easy to practice social distancing. The main front porch in particular has always been something of a bottleneck. The change to entering from the back past the loos was not an ideal one. However this couldn’t be used as an exit, because customers would be exiting “blind” around the corner of the building, potentially into oncoming estate or delivery vehicles. Hence our one-way system was installed allowing our customers and staff more space.

Moving the card shop into what was previously the Druie cafe enabled more room for browsing at a social distance, whilst allowing room in the farm shop for those shopping for food and gifts. Over the coming months, we hope to make changes to the layout of the building so that customers will once again safely enter from the front of the building.

Our future plans for The Barn
Despite all the challenges the team has faced, we were delighted to have made a healthy profit at The Barn by the end of Autumn 2021. This winter this profit will all be re-invested in upgrades to the space. Over the coming months we will be starting redevelopment work to increase the capacity of the kitchen. We’ll also be adding more tables as we expand the interior space. We hope to replace our Vegware with proper plates and cutlery at this point too. We hope you will enjoy the new space and we can’t wait to share our developments as they happen!