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.
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'.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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."
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