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Case study

The Fat Seagull switches up its strategy

How the Growth Hub helped Catherine and Mark Hallsworth to diversify their business.

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What does the business do? 

Founded by Catherine and Mark Hallsworth in 2012, The Fat Seagull is a family-run deli based in Sandliands, Sutton-on-Sea - a popular tourist destination on the Lincolnshire coast. As well as serving freshly-made food created from the finest local ingredients, The Fat Seagull showcases a range of work from local artists. 

What’s the history? 

Seeing the opportunity to turn a former post office into an exciting local hotspot, in 2012 Catherine and Mark transformed the space into a café and bistro specialising in the finest, locally sourced cuisine. Their 20 years of hospitality experience, as well as their dedication to quality and customer service, meant that over the years the bistro went from strength to strength, establishing an excellent reputation among both tourists and locals. 

Unfortunately, like many other hospitality venues across the country, in 2020 The Fat Seagull was forced to close its doors as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The cosy, intimate space the pair had worked so hard to cultivate wasn’t suited to the new social distancing regulations, but Catherine and Mark decided to take this setback in their stride and diversify.  They began to sell Mark’s freshly baked bread through the veranda during lockdown, and after seeing much success with this approach, they decided to reshape the business into a take-out deli. A passionate artist, Catherine also had the idea to turn the extra square feet that restructuring their bistro would create into a space for local artists to display their work. Still, they needed some expert support to turn this vision into a reality. 

How has business Lincolnshire helped? 

Mark and Catherine discovered Business Lincolnshire after researching local support options online. After reaching out to us, they were assigned a Growth Hub adviser to support them in reaching their goals. The tailored one-to-one support from their adviser encouraged Catherine and Mark to develop their ideas, giving them the advice and reassurance they needed to take the plunge.  

The Fat Seagull also applied for the Digital Voucher Fund, which allowed Catherine and Mark to create a website and venture into the world of e-commerce, helping to support them through the off-season and quieter periods.  

Their adviser also introduced them to the Rural Business Grant, which gave them the funding they needed to rebrand their building as a deli. They purchased new materials for their art displays, as well as extended their veranda for extra outdoor seating and updated their decor.  

Catherine and Mark now feel that The Fat Seagull is more efficient as a result of switching to a take-out model, and the transformation has allowed them to plan the season with confidence knowing they will be financially stable all year round.  

What’s next? 

Going forward, Catherine and Mark hope to continue branching out into e-commerce. Now that they have the website ready, they can begin to sell their products online, giving them a new stream of revenue. 

Since changing the way that The Fat Seagull operates, Catherine and Mark have seen a huge increase in footfall and general spending. Thanks to the gallery, people are sticking around after their coffee and cake to have a browse, rather than paying the bill and leaving. It has also allowed them to extend their season. Their first festive weekend showcasing a new artist was a huge hit, which they hope to repeat year on year. The pair are confident that this transformation has helped to future-proof their business and are looking forward to the future! 

Catherine said: “Even with our 20 years in hospitality, the support we received from the Business Lincolnshire team was invaluable. Wherever you’re a fledgling business or long-established, we would recommend the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub.”