How Betty's has survived 101 years of challenges

Rationing was rife in the wake of the Great War when the very first Bettys began, but still its customers came for the cake.

Saturday, 20th June 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 4:33 pm
Eve Pike, assistant retail manager at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, with a basket of fat rascals. Picture: Gary Longbottom.
Eve Pike, assistant retail manager at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, with a basket of fat rascals. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

It was a liquor license that buoyed the Yorkshire cafe and tea rooms through the 1940s, as American airmen sought solace in good food from the harrowing fatigues of war.

People have long taken joy in the little luxuries, says food author and historian Annie Gray, as the Yorkshire institution prepares to open its doors once again, as well as comfort in curd tarts.

"In 1919, many of those who chose chocolates from the mirrored cabinets of the Bettys shop, or climbed the stairs to sit in the tea rooms, were still in shock," says Dr Gray, who chronicled Bettys' history in ‘From the Alps to the Dales'.

Karen Merrin retail assistant at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, getting the plastic screens ready. Picture: Gary Longbottom

"Whether mourning the lost, or simply adjusting to the new post-war society, the Yorkshire curd tarts, cream sponges and potted beefsteaks on offer were a reminder that life goes on, and that pleasure can be found in small things."

Read More

Read More
Ice cream delivery boom saw Yorkshire Dales firm nearly 'run out' of flavours​

It has now confirmed it will begin the process of reopening some of its shops from Monday, although its range will be smaller than normal in attempts to ensure its bakeries are safe.

It's flagship branch in Harrogate will be first to reopen, along with the shop in Northallerton. A week later it will be Ilkley's store, then Harlow Carr and York St Helen's Square. The York Stonegate store will open on July 6.

Luke Butler Deputy branch manager at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, marking out the 2 metre spacing outside the shop. Picture: Gary Longbottom

The cafés will remain closed for now, the company has said, and the number of people allowed into its shops at any one time will be limited.

But even as it adjusts, to social distancing, to contactless payments and protective screens, it is readying for the next step in its 101-year-old history.

Comfort in cake

Dr Gray, reflecting on how the business has endured through global challenges including depression, recession and war, says it has kept cooking throughout.

The new hand santizing station and one way system at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday. Picture: Gary Longbottom

In the post-war years, it was pre-theatre suppers and petits fours, corned beef creations or 'fish-mix' suppers.

In the 1970s, lit by candlelight amid electricity rationing, it was omelettes and peach melba. Today, it is the classic Fat Rascal for which it is famous which will remain on the menu, as well as freshly baked bread, scones, fondant fancies and macaroons.

"We once more face uncertain times, the threat of illness, recession and global instability all very real," said Dr Gray.

"In lockdown flour sales have boomed, as we turned to home baking as displacement and comfort.

Robin Cox Visual Merchandising Manager at Bettys fixing the 2m signs to the floor at the entrance to the Harrogate shop. Picture: Gary Longbottom

"Small bakeries and other high street food businesses have gained new customers, both in person and online, as we rediscover the small joys hidden in a fruited bun, or a squidgy cheese.

"We’ve redefined our notions of what – and who – is essential and started to recognise that the people who grow, make and package our food are vital to our physical and mental wellbeing."

New systems for Bettys branches

The first Bettys was opened in Harrogate in July 1919 by Swiss immigrant Fritz Bützer, billed as an "exclusive cafe".

As the cafe and tea rooms readies to cautiously reopen its shops, it will limit its range to keep space in its bakeries.How Betty's has survived 100 years of challenges

"We are truly delighted to be welcoming customers back to our Bettys shops, we’ve missed them," said managing director Simon Eyles.

The shutters are down at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is preparing for reopening on Monday. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

"To ensure their safety and that of our colleagues, we have new shopping systems in place.

"So, while it might not be the full Bettys experience that customers are used to, people will still find the mouth-watering Bettys treats they have been missing and, of course, our warm Yorkshire welcome.

"I hope that customers will feel safe and excited to be visiting us again for their Bettys favourites."

_________________________________________________________________

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson

Editor

Eve Pike the assistant retail manager at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, checking on the window display. Picture: Gary Longbottom.
Eve Pike assistant retail manager at Bettys in the Harrogate shop which is reopening on Monday, getting the window display ready. Picture: Gary Longbottom.