A family-run cafe on the outskirts of Carlisle is gearing up for a push to make up for lost time as Covid restrictions begin to ease.

Laing’s of Harker has endured a year like no other, but co-owner Sophie Laing retains a positive tone.

“For every business it has been a struggle. We’re a family business, so we knew it was on us to keep it going. It’s taken a lot of long hours and a lot of dedication,” she reveals.

“Over the past few weeks, opening up outside seating has been a real positive for us. Just seeing customers properly again has been lovely. We have 24 tables in all and that allows us to seat up to four each per table.

“The week we reopened we had the good weather, which makes a massive difference.”

Sophie is thankful that customers have remained supportive of the business even in unfavourable weather, with people still sitting outside enjoying coffees, cakes and full meals.

She said: “Of course, weather-wise, this week has not been quite as good in that respect and so it just shows that things are still a little fragile and we are reliant a little on pot luck in that way.

“I think there have been some positives for us. We’ve gained a larger following, particularly through social media, and we are getting customers that have never been here before. We’ve had a chance to do things we would never have been able to without Covid such as our Sweet Treat Boxes and had time to evaluate where we want to take the business going forward.”

For the business moving forward, the past year has allowed Laing’s to gain a presence on social media, something that is now helping to drive further business.

“We opened the kiosk in the first lockdown and takeaways have become massive for us. We’ve started doing a lot more Instagram-friendly cakes so in that sense we are now really moving with the times.

“For instance, we posted the Cilla caterpillar cake last week and within 20 minutes, there was somebody in to buy four of them because their wife had seen it online.

“There’s a lot more interaction and we’re getting more personal with customers so it’s been good all-round.”

For Laing’s, despite a difficult year, the future looks bright, Sophie says.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people inside again but we’ve also decided to maintain our outside space for those a bit cautious about moving inside just now. Hopefully it’s going to be a good summer!”