Awards shortlist delight for Boston tea room after a year of gloom

The Little KitchenThe Little Kitchen
The Little Kitchen
It has been a difficult year for anyone who owns a business, and those in hospitality have been particularly hit hard during lockdowns and by the tier restrictions

But for one Boston café, the long shadow cast by Covid19 has been lightened a little with news that it is a finalist in a national industry awards.

The Little Kitchen, based in the Waterfall Plaza, is up against two other businesses – including national chain Costa Coffee – in the Out of Home Business of the year category in the Baking Industry Awards.

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Owner Jo Cunningham said she was over the moon to discover she was on the final shortlist for the award, with the winner set to be announced at a prestigious online ceremony later this month.

Jo outside The Little KitchenJo outside The Little Kitchen
Jo outside The Little Kitchen

Jo set up the business with the support and encouragement of husband Ian in November 2014, initially in Red Lion Street, moving to the Waterfall Plaza location three years ago.

The café has been semi-finalists in the British Sandwich Designer of the Year award in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Jo said that once the pandemic started and with everything going on around that, she had forgotten entering the business in the BTA awards, and when she got an initial email about it, she thought it was marketing at first.

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“Reading through it. Irealised that it was a bearer of good news that I had made it to the semi-final. I was over the moon with the news. I remember being home and I smiled all day long. At last something to be excited about.”

Judges secretly visited the café sometime when the café re-opened after the first lockdown, and then Jo was invited to present her entry to the judges online through a live chat room.

She said she had to answer an array of questions about the business and her strategy, including how she had responded to Covid and how The Little Kitchen stood out from competitors.

“It was strange trying to impress the judges through a video meeting, but after spending 40 minutes of answering questions and presenting them with the entire history of TLK it made me realise that in this six years of having my own business I have achieved new skills in life and made lots of customer friends,” she said.

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“If Covid was to be the end of my business I would have been sad but also thankful for everything I have gained so far.”

After a long wait, Jo was contacted and told she had been chosen as a finalist.

The winners will be revealed at the online ceremony at a virtual ceremony on January 20 at 6.30pm.

Jo says she is looking forward to it. “I might wear a frock - or my dressing gown! But I will definitely celebrate the event, no matter the result,” she said.

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The mother of a son who is nearly three, Jo says this year has given her lots of gray hairs.

“I felt a massive weight on my shoulders, worried about the business and its future, about my family and anxious about the virus itself. Every day I was leaving for work not knowing if I am bringing the virus home to my family or not, even though we have the most Covid-stringent procedures in our cafe to protect our staff and customers.

“We have gained some amazing customers, more like friends some of them now. Their support has been out of this world, especially morally. We need them to carry on supporting us, without them we would not be here, their support is our existence and we are deeply grateful for it.”

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