The Full Package - Interview with Betsy from Pavilion
Anyone who’s paid a visit to Victoria Park in London on a sunny day will have seen the huge lines spilling out from the beacon-like building by the boating lake. Pavilion Cafe, baking small batches of slow-fermented bread and pastries and serving them alongside excellent coffee and lunches, is a true East London institution.
Pavilion celebrates seasonal produce and promotes sustainability through all its supplier relationships. Meat-free and stocked with organic, local produce from suppliers around the UK, there is a constant aim to improve their impact on the world.
Taking pride in sourcing as ethically as possible, and investing in local communities is what led them to us at decent. We’re stoked to be stocking London’s busiest cafe with their own bespoke branded cups, and a compostable collection box to encourage their customers to dispose of them correctly.
We caught up with General Manager Betsy to celebrate our special collaboration project for the full package.
Hey Betsy, Firstly, and most importantly, what’s your favourite/go-to pastry from Pavilion?
OK, pastry is easy because I am a woman of simple tastes. Plain croissant. I can eat that literally every day and I do most days.
Then if it was a dish, it's gonna be the fish finger sandwich. Which is river trout because we're trying to avoid using any sea fishing that isn't from Cornwall. We are still serving mackerel because it's caught off our boats in Cornwall. But yeah, it's river trout breaded, deep-fried on soft white bread with mayonnaise. The best lunch you can ask for.
YUM what’s your fav coffee to go with that?
Always black coffee.
What’s it like running the busiest cafe in London? Is there such a thing as an average day?!
I should preface this by saying I don’t. I'm not on the ground now. You know, I have three incredible managers, Luke, Saskia, and Jacob who actually run the cafes in London. In terms of what it's like overseeing that, it's pretty hectic, but it's great.
I think it's a real cliche to say like no two days are the same but that's completely true. I spend probably 50% of my time working on long term vision for the company, so products we'd like to make branding we'd like to change, and the kind of long term goals of the company as well. So whether that charity work or sustainability work. And then 50% of the time I guess I'm problem-solving when things go wrong. So that's like suppliers, the plumbers and electricians, that's all on me.
It is very good fun and I like having so many people around me. You know, when we're nearly 60 people in the company now and it's great getting to be around all day. You know I spend most of my day popping between the sites, checking everyone's OK, and then I go back to my office.
You guys are always championing new and emerging brands and producers, who has made you the proudest to partner with recently and why?
I love being so close to the suppliers, we have incredible British suppliers and some Sri Lankan suppliers, and I get to talk to them about what we want, how we want it, and I get to learn about how they make those things and how they package those things and how it works. Like just a couple of months ago I got to go to Cornwall to see Louisa and Jonathan who make our honey. That's gotta be a pretty big perk of the job, getting to go and visit the bees that produce the honey that you sell in your cafe. England Preserves in Bermondsey make our Jam locally, that's great, I love things like that.
What made you switch to compostable packaging, where did you hear about decent?
So I came across decent when I moved to a brand new coffee roastery in my previous position and we were looking at basically building everything from the ground up. I came across decent and I got to meet with Tony who is obviously the nicest man in the entire world. That should be like his actual job title. When I moved to Pavilion and found out that we weren't using compostable cups. It was like a no-brainer to move to decent.
As a cafe, especially a kind of large reputable cafe you do find yourself under scrutiny a lot and we have to be very careful about some of the moves we make. You know we have to make sure that people understand that we are really trying and it's hard. It's really hard when you're working at volume and so it was very important to me. Like pretty much as soon as I joined the company that needed to be fixed and it was decent.
It’s so exciting that such an East London institution is collaborating with us at decent to launch the full package, we’re so proud to have you guys on board. What is your ambition for this project, and where can you see it leading in the future?
You know, I was thinking about this the other day and I was thinking we're quite an unusual case study because we're in a publicly serviced place, so Tower Hamlets are our landlords and Tower Hamlets control everything we do. Our water, our electricity and gas, and our waste disposal. We are actually really lucky because we have this ability to capture our customers for an extended period of time, whether they sit or whether they do a lap of the park and come back. We have a way to control their waste disposal, and I think that's quite unique, and that's kind of where I want this to keep leading is that we can control the waste disposal even further.
Overall ambition would be to give Tower Hamlets (Council) kind of a bit of a shakeup with their waste disposal and say look we've actually managed to do this off our own backs. You know, with the help of decent and First mile it is possible. I mean, you know I've talked about this quite a lot with you, Jade, like bureaucracy, it really slows us down for a lot of stuff and whilst they are incredible at supporting us and letting us do many, many things in the park.
There are new methods for waste disposal. The bins in the park, some have been there since the 70s. We need to take a big step forward for the whole park and if we can lead that, it can show we can make a difference to offering compostable packaging bins. I think that would be awesome. And then who knows? We're lucky it's actually the same council for the other two shops. It's Tower Hamlets for Columbia Rd and Broadway Market, so maybe there's something we can do there in the future. Columbia Road flower market. On the weekends they just have those general waste bins at either end of the street and that's just like. The ambition for this project is to prove that it's possible to update waste disposal offerings.
What’s the coolest thing you want your customers to know about this special full package collection box?
I mean there are many, many cool things that this is quite easy to answer because I literally don't shut up about it, which is the storm board. I'm obsessed! I can't believe how cool it is just in terms of the way it's using waste, and how it was invented. But also I cannot believe how much I love how it looks. I think the coolest thing about the collection boxes is that it's gonna look awesome. People are going to want to know what that is made of and hopefully entice people to use it and spark the interest of like what is it?
Definitely! What would you say to other roasteries, cafes or organisations that want to make the switch to compostable packaging and establish their own composting collections?
I would say work with decent and First mile because they've made it very easy. I don't have any experience with waste collection. I have a lot of hoops to jump through with councils.
If you can find the right people to help you do it like no one, I don't think anyone really knows what they're doing 100%. You need different voices feeding in to make the project happen. I think the switch to compostable packaging is easy though if you're not doing that, you need to be doing that.
I would say the hardest part is the waste disposal. It's sorting your disposal routes. Decent has made everything really easy to get the full package set up. It's kinda just about making that initial step and contacting the companies and say like I really want to do better.
When you’re not running around being an absolute boss, where could we find you for a feed and a few beers?
Well, I actually live in South East London. But I spent a lot of time in East London. The place I miss the most is Jim’s on Chatsworth Rd.
That was like the best for everything for beers for breakfast. For like when you were hungover -Jim’s is the one that I wish I wish we hadn't moved away from. Also, I like the Spurstowe in Dalston. Forza wine in Peckham opened a rooftop wine bar, I love it!
Sounds great, I must pay them a visit. Lastly, any parting advice for other eco-conscious people, coffee-lovers, and businesses?
Yeah, I feel like I kind of touched on that before but I would say if you just have to take that first step and you have to admit that you don't know everything well, for one thing, I should say the bin collection/ Mission BIN possible was not my idea. You guys approached us with that and I think being open to collaboration, listening to people who know more than you in certain sectors like I don't know anything about bins. That is invaluable business advice, it's like being open to people offering their advice and expertise. Like I said earlier, just start, take the first step.
Pavilion, Victoria Park, London
Mon - Fri 7:30am - 5pm Saturday - Sunday 8am - 3pm