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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 29/09/2021

In this week’s Winners’ Wednesday feature, we celebrate The Real Food Café in Tyndrum, national winner of the Scottish Thistle Award for Best Informal Eating Experience in March 2020.

The award celebrates quality Scottish food and hospitality in an informal setting. Specialising in fish and chips, home baking, breakfasts and great coffee, The Real Food Café is passionate about providing an accessible environment for everyone to enjoy affordable and tasty food. Situated on the A82 and West Highland Way, it provides a welcoming rest and refuelling stop for many thousands of tourists and travellers, their families and pets all year round. Judges praised the café for its vision for the future, as well as its emphasis on local suppliers, commitment to sustainability and investment in staff.  

The Real Food Cafe at the Scottish Thistle Awards

Winning the National Thistle Award for the Best Informal Eating Experience was literally one of the highlights of our careers. It was also a fabulous night out which we will remember for a long time to come and was made even better by being shared with hundreds of faces from the Scottish tourism and hospitality industry. Little did we realise at the time how very special gatherings like that would become thanks to COVID-19.

The café is a very busy environment during a normal summer season. We can often deal with over a thousand people a day and so COVID has been an immense challenge financially, operationally and emotionally. The safety of our team and customers came first. We focused on getting VisitScotland’s ‘Good to Go’ and the AA ‘COVID Confident’ accreditations under our belt first. We then invested in outside hand washing facilities, high visibility staff PPE for outdoor car park deliveries, and we installed a contactless online ordering platform which now allows us to offer 'click and collect' on pre-orders with the option of delivery to the boot of a car, if that’s what a customer wants.

I couldn’t be more proud of our team and how they have adapted to the situation. It has been a challenging time for everyone in different ways but we really tried to stay connected and support one another. We held events and chats including a virtual Christmas staff party. We hand picked, wrapped and sent every team member a lovely hamper full of delicious Scottish foods and drinks to their homes to be enjoyed during the virtual party and over Christmas.

And we have some exciting plans for the future. Building on what we have learned during the pandemic, particularly with regard to online ordering, we are currently bidding on a site in Glasgow to use a dark kitchen. This will take some pressure off food production in Tyndrum and to allow us to sell our fish and chips for click and collect and delivery in Glasgow. It has been a very challenging period but we are feeling optimistic and excited about the future of the business and brand.

Sarah Heward, Founder & Director at The Real Food Café

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