Business in the Face of Adversity Special Award winner: The Cheltenham Trust | Gloucestershire Live Business Awards 2021 sponsored by Randall & Payne
Category: Awards

Cheltenham’s love of coffee and cake provided a lifeline for The Cheltenham Trust

The Cheltenham Trust adapted, innovated, reimagined, and breathed new life into the town’s heritage buildings, while supporting the local community and economy through the darkest times.

GloucestershireLive Business Awards 2021 logo

The newly created category; Gloucestershire Live Business In The Face Of Adversity Special Award, fitted them perfectly and they were the stand out winner. Here’s why…

Key business points:

  • The Cheltenham Trust manages Cheltenham’s heritage and contemporary venues, Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham Town Hall, The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum, Leisure at Cheltenham and The Prince of Wales stadium.
  • Established in 2014, the trust is an independent charity, and the lead provider of culture, entertainment, sport and leisure in Cheltenham.
  • Employs c100 staff with Chief Executive Laurie Bell in position since April 2019.

The winning entry:

The Cheltenham Trust made the financially positive decision to bring the outsourced catering and cafés in-house in October 2019 to maximise its catering income opportunities. A new business model was starting to be realised when in March 2020 the trust’s five venues closed and all income streams stopped.

The trust immediately identified opportunities to repurpose, remain solvent and to try and survive the impact of the pandemic. As an organisation that relies on pre-paid tickets, hires and memberships its cash flow position was high risk. It was clear the organisation was fast approaching insolvency.

A small business critical team was retained in the business whilst all other staff were placed in the Furlough scheme. Every customer was contacted to encourage deferrals, rescheduling of tickets, freezing memberships and donating monthly fees. The level of refunds was minimal and the non-free cash protected as a result.

The trust also mobilized its catering operation supporting Cheltenham Borough Council as part of the Gloucestershire Community Help Hub delivering more than 5,000 meals to those most vulnerable in the community as the impact of the pandemic was felt.

Recognising the opportunities presented by its outside spaces at a time when the guidance stated that meeting outdoors was the only permitted way to meet socially, the trust adapted, creating a new business model, opening outdoor cafes at Pittville Pump Room (first time since the 1930s) and the Garden Bar in Imperial Gardens.

The community response to the cafes was immediate and overwhelmingly positive, described as ‘lifelines’ and visited by more than 750,000 since summer 2020, with the Heritage Café serving more than 52,000 coffees and 20,000 cakes in its first year. Both cafes became permanent and a vital income stream.

Inside the cafe at Pittville Pump Rooms
Inside the Heritage Deco Café at the Pittville Pump Room

The trust’s innovative, entrepreneurial approach and business model has been recognised as an exemplar and it shared its experience and knowledge to support Cheltenham’s economic recovery.

The Cheltenham Trust logo

The Gloucestershire Live Business Awards 2022 will open for entries in March.