Pandemic Won’t Knock Entrepreneur Off The Wheaten Track
The pandemic has forced Hayley Hadfield to pivot her dream business which she had been running for less than a year.
Her “Off The Wheaten Track“ cafe which opened in April 2019 had been building up a successful trade. Coeliacs and people requiring a gluten free diet were travelling for miles to sit down for a stress-free meal, prepared in an entirely gluten-free kitchen.
Hayley (49) knew only too well that being coeliac, and requiring gluten-free food, was an autoimmune disease and not a lifestyle choice. The whole premise of her business was based on the diagnosis her husband, Dave, received in 2007. Having been a fit and healthy Commercial Manager in the pharmaceuticals sector, Dave started to display the classic symptoms associated with being a coeliac - stomach cramps, weight loss and lethargy. Intolerance to bread, pasta, cereals and biscuits were identified through a series of blood and allergy tests and a whole new way of eating was required.
Having had a passion for cooking and baking since primary school, Hayley, then a relocation manager for the BBC, swung into action. She began experimenting with ingredients and recipes to find tasty, wholesome food that both she and Dave could enjoy and that he could tolerate. Coeliac is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes healthy cells and substances for harmful ones and produces antibodies to fight them off. Keeping gluten out of every meal was essential to avoid him becoming ill and Hayley and Dave worked together to create many tasty dishes that friends and family enjoyed with them.
Fast forward 12 years and Hayley’s dream to share her recipes and baking skills started to become a reality as she found and converted premises in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, to become a cafe. Her priority was to ensure the entire two storey building was gluten-free to allow coeliacs and those with gluten intolerance to relax when eating there. Devising the menu with tasty snacks, delicious mains and tempting bakes was Hayley’s dream that she turned into reality in the homely, corner cafe on Oxford Road in the town.
The pandemic put a halt to the burgeoning cafe business as Hayley was forced to close the doors and then shield for the first fortnight at home. Time alone got her creative juices flowing as she assessed ways to pivot.
To establish if the demand was still there Hayley pulled her apron back on and set to work baking on alternate days using ingredients from her 150 strong product range. Pies, pastries and picnic hampers were all on the menu as Hayley looked at creative ways to keep the business she had worked so hard to build, afloat. She then drove and delivered orders herself - providing the personal touch and reassurance that she had freshly baked and put together the packages herself and giving her the opportunity to chat to customers about their requirements.
Confident that a gluten free range was definitely required, Hayley then re-opened her premises as a deli/mini market and manages this alongside the popular delivery service. While she has had to move on from the 26 cover cafe she had worked so hard to establish, Hayley is positive about the role the deli and mini market will play going forwards.
Her handpicked stock lines continue to grow and she anticipates tripling the size of the product range to 400+ by the end of the year including flour, pasta, fine cheese from independent cheesemakers and mouth watering ice creams. As coeliacs are at high risk due to it being an autoimmune disease, Hayley is extending her product range so customers can find individual products and foodstuffs that they could not get at the supermarket, all in one place. Her ambition is to curate a full gluten-free range.
“Our cafe was a haven for families who may have had a coeliac child or someone in the party with dairy or other allergies. This would have been the only place they could visit secure in the knowledge that the food would not cause an adverse reaction. Now, we have pivoted the business to offer a fully stocked deli and mini market with an extensive range of products on the shelves that will be a delight to those who need to monitor their food intake for health reasons.”
The deli is open Wednesday - Sunday 10am-4pm to shop the product range and for takeaway goods including lunchtime favourites. Opening hours and product range will be extended over the forthcoming weeks.