“Never give up” – How one local restaurant adapted to the challenges of COVID-19

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Giuseppe le Pera, founder of Sapore Vero, talks to News in Beckenham about the struggles of running a restaurant business in the middle of a pandemic, how they had to adapt, and his own hopes for the future.

The much-loved Italian pizzeria, Sapore Vero, which sits on Beckenham High Street, has been very much a success story since its grand opening way back in 2008. However, like many other local restaurants and indeed businesses in general, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns hit them hard.

Sapore Vero had to adapt, and fast. “It was very bad as we had to shut down, but luckily we managed to adapt to the ‘new normal’ with delivery and takeaway only”, Giuseppe told News in Beckenham.

They quickly invested in a new online booking system to try and compete with the delivery giants who already had state-of-the-art systems in place. “Customers like to use them and we had to stay one step ahead,” says Giuseppe, adding that “we also had to deal with the fact that the giant delivery sites extract a 32% commission for each order they take, which is a huge outgoing for a small business.”

Despite the increased competition, Sapore Vero has managed to not only survive the pandemic but actually grow the business – a truly remarkable feat.

“Incredibly, and against all odds, we’ve been able to expand our team, providing employment to two young people, promoting an existing employee to a supervisory role, and taking on three family breadwinners who had lost their jobs in the crisis,” says Giuseppe.

The Sapore Vero team are looking forward to the end of lockdown and Giuseppe is confident people will still have the appetite for eating out in restaurants. “I can’t sleep at night counting down the days to reopen. I think it will be a great success as people really want to get out and about again.”

“We’re working on a pioneering new dough for the Spring called Sapore Vitality. It’s a lighter take on a classic dough, made with a selection of different flours with known health benefits”, he adds.

Giuseppe is grateful to the people of Beckenham and emphasises the importance and value of community. “I would like to extend a huge ‘Thank You’ to all the Beckenham residents who have loved and supported us through this tough period.

“All of this was possible thanks to the support of our community and loyalty to Sapore Vero – and we do our best to give back as much as we can in return,” he adds.

So, the secret to lockdown success? Giuseppe imparts some age-old wisdom: “Always be determined and never give up.”

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