Diversifying the Business: A deep dive into the world of Crofters Arran

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Taste Magazine spoke with Ealána Boyle on the changes the company has gone through throughout the Covid pandemic.

It is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has had untold ramifications for the hospitality industry, the effects of which will no doubt last for months and years to come.

However, for some businesses, the past year has given them a chance to take stock, allowing them to tighten, widen or even completely change their business objectives. Crofters Arran is one of those businesses who, over the past 12 months, have completely diversified their offering.

Crofters, which was first known as Fiddlers, began its journey in 2014 and was founded by Dónal Boyle on a joint love of local food, drink and live music. In 2018, the business was renamed as Crofters, the new name representing a dedication to local produce as well as sustainability, with Dónal’s eldest daughter Ealána now taking the helm.

As coronavirus reared its ugly head in 2020, Crofters, like many other businesses, struggled when they had to close their doors and were ultimately forced to halt plans for further expansion. However, this period of struggle also provided opportunity, which resulted in the founding of Crofters Larder.

Crofters Larder, set up by Ealána and acting in tandem with Crofters Arran, provides the food element to the Crofters brand and alongside food production, works in collaboration with other food brands on the Isle of Arran. Inspired by the likes of Earth Care and Fair Share, the brand showcases a desire to help support the local food economy as well as minimise food waste. As Ealána states:

"The project came about as a commitment to sourcing locally, creating a sustainable added-value product that the island wasn't already producing. We have a lot of fantastic food and drink manufacturers on the island, however I felt that no one was really paying attention to the produce here and there wasn't anyone doing fermentations, condiments or larder staples."

"The larder was coined as my commitment to working with the farming and agriculture sector here, along with the food destination aspect of Arran as a tourist destination. It was very much about how our relationship with food across the Crofters brand was developed and defining our values and principles as well as helping create a circular economy in which we are supporting other small producers, meaning we can sustain an economic viability on Arran."

But Crofters Larder was just the start of their diversification. Music was and continues to be a large part of the Crofter's genetic makeup, with live music appearing 5 times a week on the regular. However, based on current covid regulations, live music entered, and still remains in, a standstill. In a bid to help support the local music scene alive, Crofters Music was born, bringing people hour long music sets for the cost of a pint.

"Music has been integral to the Fiddlers and the Crofters journey from the start. We used to put on live music five nights a week and on a Sunday afternoon, it very much was our USP. When we weren't allowed to reintroduce live music in the restaurant again last year we really felt that we needed a way in which we could support and honour the musicians who had played with us. They couldn't perform live, we couldn't pay them. So what we did was we took them to our friend Dave Town's studios production house and recorded 14 episodes from seven artists of their grassroots music to stream online."

"With a lot of the big streaming sites, you don't actually get much financial compensation, it's pennies on the hundreds of thousands of streams. Whereas what we did was we set up was quite simply 45% went to the artists 45% came to us and 10% went to the hosting company. And it immediately skewed the data in the opposite way in which it would become a really quite strong, viable and sustainable option for musicians to earn an income, you know, as well as being able to connect with consumers online when they were at home and with with what we do in homes."

In addition to Crofters Music, there is also plans to establish Crofters Cruises this year. Inspired by Dónal’s passion for sailing, the Crofters experience was brought on board the Lady of Aeneval in 2019, where guests would experience food, drink and music for five days which proved to be a fantastic experience for those involved.

While plans to bring this project to the public were put on ice as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that has not quelled the desire to bring this experience to life.

"It will be something that they've never experienced before and really quite intimate, you're going to have 10 people at maximum with us so you're going to meet new people that you perhaps don't know and get to share their stories and enjoy everything that we have to offer. With literally fresh food that was caught and foraged for that day, live music and the opportunity there for people if they want to pull on ropes and help sail and and get tucked in, they can do so. Or they can do set back and relax and enjoy it."

Looking to the future, 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for Crofters Arran. While the company has existed for many years at this point, this year very much feels like a relaunch. With the diversification of the company as well the establishment of their ethos on sustainability and supporting the local food economy, the team are ready to make a splash.

"I think the biggest thing is that we will not only be reopening the restaurant and launching our cruises, will be creating and actually demonstrating what we what we've been talking about in the last year, the moves that we've made the changes the structuring, we now need to take action, we need to implement it and demonstrate our competence on what we have promised to deliver. It starts with being able to reopen the restaurant, invite people and let them know they'll be able to come and try our food and drink and experience our hospitality."

"With a new team, new menu, new infrastructure, new business concept it's like starting from scratch. We have no previous trading history history to demonstrate what we are going to be doing going forward, we can only extrapolate on what our experiences had been up until even including last year. And just grow on that. And it's really exciting. It's new, a little bit daunting. And it's nerve wracking. I think all businesses are feeling that way. But we are confident that having waited and ensuring that we get the right team together before we reopen, we'll never compromise on our quality on our ethos on our ethics or our values."

Want to learn more about all things Crofters Arran? Be sure to check out their website here

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