Co-owner of The Italian Club Group on what she learnt from the height of the Pandemic
Rosaria Crolla is co-owner with husband Maurizio Pellegrini of The Italian Club Group and she recently opened her heart and revealed her learning experiences from the Pandemic.
My father always warned me about how hard the restaurant business was and that I should be prepared for disaster around every corner but I don’t think even he had imagined a global pandemic in the mix. Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of the effects of multiple lockdowns on our business and the hospitality industry as a whole.
Having never closed our seven day a week business, apart from the festive period, permanent closure of our businesses was stupefying, not to mention terrifying from a financial perspective.
From the beginning of the pandemic, I was exceptionally scared at the potential of the Covid 19 virus and made every effort not to put economics before the safety of my staff and my family. I figured that we were all in the same boat together and tried very hard to remain calm.
I decided very early on that this was not a time to be vocal about how terrible it was for us and how scared we were of bankruptcy or garner sympathy or publicity for ourselves by giving interviews, but instead, to batten down the hatches and do everything we could do to save the businesses and the financial future of our staff. It felt wrong to complain because so many people lost their lives and jobs and so keeping perspective was paramount and I put my energies and business experience into staying on our feet.
Although many mistakes were made regarding lockdowns, I cannot overstate how fortunate we have all been to be supported by the various government and council initiatives. It’s devastating that some people slipped financially through the cracks and that should be rectified but I truly don’t think the government could have done more financially for the country.
When we shut down last year, I never expected any help to be able to retain my workforce and if you’d told me we would still be closed after a year of restrictions, I would have laughed and said it was impossible. I have many European relatives that haven’t had a single penny and so I feel very proud of GB’s approach to financially maintaining the population.
To stay afloat, we took on some big financial debt commitments and though it would probably have been much easier to walk away from it all, we refused to conceive of a Bold Street without The Italian Club, The Italian Club Fish and a Newington without The Italian Club Bakery. I also owe a great debt of thanks to our empathetic landlords who have always been open to finding solutions and that helped us enormously. My bank also did their very best by extending our overdraft to allow us to pay our substantial fixed costs each month.
I’ve always tried to be as honest and communicative as I can be with everyone I do business with and that in turn builds a reputation of trust and that trust pays back tenfold in times of trouble. People knew I would honour my agreements and we all worked together to find a way through.
The pandemic taught me a lot.
I was ambitious and before the pandemic, we were spread very thin, running multiple businesses in Scotland and England and I have to admit that my energy levels were low. My identity was very rooted in being a businesswoman so staring down the metaphorical barrel of a gun, forced me to take a long hard look at my career, the things done right and the mistakes made.
The lockdowns gave me the space and time to assess the businesses, uncomplicate our lives a little and start to think of what we wanted our next chapter to look like. I know that chapter includes the further advancement of our wonderful Liverpool businesses. It won’t be easy getting back to the place where we once were, but we are young enough to do it all again and just as my grandparents were forced to leave Italy in their early forties to make a better financial life in Scotland, my family and I will let the dust settle, assess the damage and keep driving these restaurants with the passion for food we have always had.
The BID and council initiative of the pedestrianisation of Bold Street has been a godsend and having opened a fortnight ago on Monday to an incredibly successful al fresco dining culture, the future looks bright. Whatever comes next, we are prepared for it.