Breaking the Mould: Crofters Arran Disrupts the Restaurant Model

This is part 2 of a four-part series. Read part 1 here: Post-Covid, Small Businesses Need to Account for the True Cost of Hospitality


When Isle of Arran music bar and bistro Crofters Arran was forced to close due to lockdown restrictions, the team kicked off the development of several sister enterprises - Crofters Larder, Crofters Music, Crofters Cruises and Crofters Still - that have emerged as distinct entities under the umbrella Crofters brand. However, as UK hospitality businesses reopen their doors, the focus is back on the original restaurant business.

While many hospitality businesses were keen to throw open their doors straight away, Crofters has held back to ensure that they have the space, staff and systems in place to launch a new way of operating.

This includes expansion of the premises to include a beer garden for outdoor dining and a home for the Crofters Larder and Crofters Still production equipment, as well as a novel approach to pricing and menu creation.

“We’re adopting an integrated approach to inventory management, sales prices and margins, all driven by the state-of-the-art technology that bigger players in the marketplace use as standard,” says Managing Director Dónal Boyle. “When items come in and the price has changed from the week before, it’s going to be reflected in the sale price there and then in the menu. The idea is to rigorously quantify everything so that we don’t overcharge our customers and we don’t leave ourselves short either.”


As General Manager Ealána Boyle explains, that doesn’t mean that customers will experience price rises for the same menu items.

“We’re doing away with our set printed menus in favour of digital menus and offering a constantly changing selection of creative meals that will use core ingredients in different ways as they fluctuate in price and availability according to the season and market conditions.”

“For instance, we might offer fish and chips at £14.95 using haddock from the fishmongers. Say the price of that haddock becomes substantially more expensive - rather than increasing the price of fish and chips or looking for cheaper alternative ingredients, our chefs will use that same core high-quality ingredient to offer a completely different dish. Customers get to experience something new and creative on a regular basis at a fair price while we ensure that our margins are sustainable enough to pay staff well and strengthen the rural island economy in the long term.”

“We need to learn to play the game and be brave,” Ealána concludes. “Small independent businesses can adapt more easily than big chains and we have so much power behind us if we collectively do so.”

Read more about diversification at Crofters in part 3: Beyond Service: How Crofters Arran Diversified to Survive 2020


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