Not many cafes can say they are officially recommended by their national government, but Fodder has recently become one.
It’s safe to say this year has been rough for the hospitality industry. Restaurants and cafes are operating under heavy restrictions, pubs and bars even more so, and clubs having no clear reopening date in sight. For those who have been able to reopen, the process of making their premises as Covid-19 tight as possible has been expensive. This coupled with decreased customer numbers, the slowing down of business loans, and grants from governments, and the possibility of having to shut down again with little warning is daunting.
In response to this issue, the UK Government introduced the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative. For businesses who chose to take part, customers visiting on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday could get half price off their bill. Certainly in Northern Ireland, the scheme was a hit. For the month of August, the usually quiet weekdays for the hospitality industry, were as busy a Saturday night.
Fodder farm shop and cafe is no exception to this. Located in Finnebrogue Woods in Co. Down, it is very unique as far as cafes go. Whilst well known to locals, the small site recently attracted national attention when it was featured as one of the UK Government’s top ‘wild and wonderful’ places to enjoy the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ 50% off scheme. Pretty crazy for a place whose shop is a shipping container and seating area consists of a teepee.
So why does Fodder work so well? How did it attract the attention of the UK Government? And how did they cope with fame throughout the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ madness?
I’d say Fodder is the perfect example of the idea that less is more; keep things simple and local, but make them fantastic. The menu consists of the Dexter burger, hotdog, bean burger and fries. Perhaps they’ll have a burger or salad special, but know that a trip to Fodder will be a BBQ lunch (without the stress of trying to light a BBQ, and not burn everything). However, you could probably walk to where the beef came from. The cafe is situated on farmland, so the meat is from the said farm. It doesn’t get more local and sustainable than that. The shop, as well as selling various cuts of meat from their Dexter cows, also sells a variety of products from local producers; jams, chutneys, chocolate, cheese, amazing coffee, etc.
Crucially, however, Fodder has proved perfect for the lockdown season, as it is more or less completely outdoors. The teepee offers shelter when it inevitably rains but is open and spacious. For those concerned about the risks of going out to an indoor restaurant or cafe, Fodder provides a resuarring and safe alternative. Should you want to go to the shop, masks are to be worn. But if you just want food, you can order from the window next to the BBQs, and not even go inside.
As well as feeling safe, it’s location makes it a great spot for a walk. Surrounded by woodlands with a small lake just a few minutes walk away, it’s a lovely setting for a wander with a takeout coffee. The cafe is very dog friendly too! So perfect for dog lovers, owners, and all your walkie needs.
Finally, to be a successful business in the modern-day, strong branding and an effective social media presence are vital. Fodder wins on both of these occasions. With the staff’s shabby-chic navy jumpers with the bright orange tree logo on the back, you immediately get a cosy but cool tone. Their social media accounts are active and consistently keeping their audience updated and very tempted.
But ultimately what makes Fodder stand out, is that there is nothing quite like it. Set in a beautiful forest, with a fairy-light lit teepee, beautiful walks, delicious local food. It even has an ice cream kiosk, for when it actually gets warm. It is dog, family, and certainly Instagram friendly. There’s no wonder it’s received such wide recognition.