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An Exceptional Business – Toast, Honiton

February 23, 2012

The cafe and patisserie run by Kate and Becks in Honiton, Devon is an exceptional business. I had intended to just write a quick blog explaining my positive experience on Tuesday, as detailed below, by way of a ‘Thank You’ card.

But I realised on reflection that Toast deserves greater recognition.

Our High Streets in the UK are changing and they must still undergo more significant change. Traditional retailing is not just suffering economic downturn, it faces ever-growing competition via the internet. We all know this. What is less obvious, is how we can save our local High Streets from closing down?

Mary Portas was commissioned by the Government to investigate and her recent report makes excellent recommendations. These include the importance of independent businesses, especially those that give great service and customer experience.

And this is why I am flagging up Toast as a best practice example. A simple independent business that is doing all things right. As well as sharing my personal experience and linking to other positive blogs, which may urge you to sample their fare, I hope this blog will reach other independent businesses across the UK. You too, should visit, to be expired. And anyone involved in town planning, local economic development and Chambers of Commerce. So if you know people like this, please reblog and share as widely as possible. Most High Streets need help to combat the stealth of the multiples and the chains.

Businesses like Toast make a town. They attract people and make other High Street retailing viable. A memorable customer experience encourages ‘return footfall’ and makes the town ‘sticky’. I write this as someone who was once a Business Advisor. I worked with SME’s, supported by the Design Council and the DTI, to encourage best practice using good design in small businesses. It was great to visit a new start-up that is thriving in the current economy.

I wish Kate and Becks every success with Toast.

A Light Lunch

I arrived in Honiton around 12 noon, in good time before my interview at Supacat at 2:00pm. I had planned to break my journey here. Stop for a light lunch in pleasant surroundings and relax. I had plenty of time.

I had often stopped en route to the West Country, and initially headed for the Boston Tea Party. It had been a pleasant watering hole on previous occasions, although I had not realised then it was becoming a significant chain of cafes in the South West.

No luck, the builders were in. The place was undergoing a major refurb.

Undeterred I walked on down the street. Honiton, once famous for its antique shops, now seems outnumbered by its charity shops. A sign of the times. So to, was the Costa, now coming up on my radar. I’m not a great fan, but it was raining, so I popped in. Being half-term is was busy. A long queue at the counter. I used the facilities, and then decided to keep walking. There must be somewhere better?

So my heart lifted when I approached Toast. A simple sign flagged the entrance door. It seemed to promised simple fare, in pleasant surroundings. The building was sound, and a glimpse through the windows confirmed there were plenty of customers enjoying their lunch.

As I entered, a warm welcome greeted me. Adjusting to the space, a signed confirmed ‘Waitress service’ so no need to queue here, just take a seat. The wooden tables were solid, clean and substantial. The interior decor was pleasant. Someone had invested in this business. The menu was small, well designed and printed in colour. I had found my safe haven in which to unwind.

The choice was limited but interesting. I got no further than Poached Eggs on an English Muffin. When I ordered, with a pot of tea, I discovered that it came with smoked salmon. I nice surprise. The service was prompt and polite. The food arrived in a short while. And it was delight.

I am not that easy to please. I usually find something that can be improved. But Toast delivered. And I was happy to part with £7. Even the prices were straightforward.

Toast website – under construction
The Portas Review – download a pdf
The Design Council – designing demand

One Comment

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  1. Holiday Cottage Photoshoot « Becky Joiner

thanks for sharing a thought

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