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The Mussel Pod - Norfolk mussel farmer moves their street-food business to keep afloat

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Mussel farming Brancaster


Interview with Thomas, owner of The Mussel Pod, Brancaster, Norfolk

In recent months, in order to continue operating during COVID-19, many established food businesses have diversified into food delivery, takeaway or online sales. There has also been an increase in people cooking from home and selling food locally or online.

As part of the Here to Help campaign, we have spoken to businesses across the UK to find out about the range of challenges facing food businesses and their tips on how to succeed.

What was your business like pre-lockdown?

I’m a mussel farmer and our family have been fishing in Norfolk since the 1700s. We’re passionate about seafood, especially mussels!

We farm and sell our mussels wholesale to pubs and restaurants. We use a mobile street-food unit (The Mussel Pod) to cook, showcase and sell the mussels during the summer months. We’re a small business – just me and my wife Sarah – and we work hard to sell several tonnes of mussels a week.

We harvest the Brancaster mussels between September and March for wholesale and hold some back to cook in The Pod over the summer.

How did COVID-19 affect your business? What did you change?

Luckily, we were just finishing harvesting the mussels in March, so the impact on the farming side of the business was minimal at that point. However, it soon became apparent that our mobile street-food business would really suffer if we didn’t think fast and adapt.

The summer festival and events season is critical for us, but with all events cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, it was a real blow.

At first we needed to understand if we could even trade, as mobile licences are viewed differently to fixed business ones. And whether we were classed as key workers in the pandemic.

Even if we did come up with a solution it was vital we knew how to work safely during COVID-19 and understanding social distancing measures so that we could keep everyone safe and be compliant.

Takeaway mussels from a garden

In a stroke of luck, my mother lives in Brancaster fishing village. Her garden is next to a main road and has high footfall. We decided that this would be The Pod’s new home for the summer.
The location has a lovely connection to the sea and we hoped there would be enough customers for us to stay open.

Customer and staff safety

We decided, for safety reasons, that we would be purely a takeaway model and wouldn’t add any chairs near The Pod. This was so that customers could buy their food from a safe distance and then go and find a space to eat it away from other customers.

We marked out 2 meter spacing on the floor and used lobster pots and a barrier so that customers were also 2 meters from us in The Pod when ordering. We followed the updated government reopening guidance and reopening checklist closely to make sure that The Pod was set up correctly. We re-checked anything that we were doing differently due to COVID-19.

The Mussel Pod, Brancaster

Restocking early

In our spare time, we decided to start restocking the mussels earlier than we normally would. This was so that we could continue to have a good supply and was important to us as we really didn’t know what the future would hold for our business. This meant I was a mile out at sea on the mussel beds, so I was definitely social distancing!

Communicating with customers

Keeping our followers and customers updated on what we were doing and where we were now based was key for us. They normally follow us around the country to different festivals and events, so social media helped us to share our very different journey this year. We created regular updates on the safety measures we had put in place and photos of The Pod so that our customers could see what we had done and how to find us.

Allergen information

The mussel is itself an allergen, as a mollusc. We have clear signage about that and any of the other 14 allergens we use when cooking the mussels, such as cream or milk.

We also checked the ingredients of any new replacement products we had to source due to COVID-19. Checking we were compliant every step of the way was essential as it was a very overwhelming time.

Knowledge sharing

We continued to share our mussel knowledge with our customers as they love to learn about how we purify them using UV treated water and other mussel facts.

We also noticed that customers wanted to know more about the origins of the food they were eating due to the pandemic. Because we farm the mussels ourselves we can talk them through the whole process. This was important to us as it was a chance to reassure them at the same time as serving them delicious mussels.

What did you learn?

We learned that we needed to be flexible and look for every opportunity we could use once we knew that events and festivals were cancelled. This was really important as The Mussel Pod is more profitable than the wholesale part of the business.

We needed to quickly understand what we could do and how to stay compliant with the new COVID-19 guidance to keep everyone safe without compromising on our usual high standards. The fact that we were a mobile street-food business helped as people wanted to be outside when eating as they felt safer and could find a safe space away from others to eat their mussels.

What do the next 6-12 months look like for you as a business?

As a business, we’re looking further ahead and investing and restocking the mussel beds much earlier this year. That way they’ll be fully stocked by Autumn. We can also be flexible with our mussels, holding them back in the harbour without compromising the quality, they just grow bigger.

We’ll continue to assess the festivals and events scene and plan and adapt accordingly.


Ffermwr cregyn gleision yn Norfolk yn symud ei fusnes bwyd stryd symudol i ardd mewn pentref pysgota lleol fel y gall barhau i weithredu

Cyfweliad â Thomas, perchennog The Mussel Pod, Brancaster, Norfolk

Beth oedd eich busnes cyn y cyfnod clo?

Rwy'n ffermwr cregyn gleision ac mae ein teulu wedi bod yn pysgota yn Norfolk ers y 1700au. Rydym ni'n angerddol dros fwyd môr, yn enwedig cregyn gleision!
Rydym ni’n ffermio ac yn gwerthu ein cregyn gleision drwy eu cyfanwerthu i dafarndai a bwytai. Rydym ni’n defnyddio uned bwyd stryd symudol (The Mussel Pod) i goginio, arddangos a gwerthu'r cregyn gleision yn ystod misoedd yr haf.

Rydym ni’n fusnes bach – dim ond fi a fy ngwraig Sarah – ac rydym ni’n gweithio'n galed i werthu sawl tunnell o gregyn gleision yr wythnos.
Rydym ni’n cynaeafu cregyn gleision Brancaster rhwng mis Medi a mis Mawrth i'w cyfanwerthu ac yn cadw rhywfaint yn ôl i’w coginio yn The Pod dros yr haf.

Sut effeithiodd COVID-19 ar eich busnes? Beth wnaethoch chi ei newid?

Yn ffodus, roeddem ni newydd orffen cynaeafu'r cregyn gleision ym mis Mawrth, felly roedd yr effaith ar ochr ffermio'r busnes yn fach iawn bryd hynny. Fodd bynnag, daeth yn amlwg yn ddigon buan y byddai ein busnes bwyd stryd symudol yn dioddef go iawn pe na baem ni’n meddwl yn gyflym ac yn addasu.

Mae tymor gwyliau a digwyddiadau’r haf yn hollbwysig i ni, ond gyda’r holl ddigwyddiadau wedi’u canslo neu eu gohirio am y tro, roedd wir yn ergyd.

Ar y dechrau, roedd angen i ni ddeall p’un a fyddem ni’n cael masnachu o gwbl, gan fod trwyddedau symudol yn cael eu hystyried yn wahanol i rai busnes sefydlog. A ph’un a ydym ni’n cael ein dosbarthu fel gweithwyr allweddol yn ystod y pandemig.

Hyd yn oed pe byddem ni’n dod o hyd i ateb, roedd yn hanfodol ein bod yn gwybod sut i weithio'n ddiogel yn ystod COVID-19 a deall y mesurau cadw pellter cymdeithasol fel y gallem gadw pawb yn ddiogel a chydymffurfio.

Cregyn gleision tecawê o’r ardd

Wrth lwc, mae fy mam yn byw ym mhentref pysgota Brancaster. Mae ei gardd wrth ymyl priffordd ac mae nifer uchel o bobl yn cerdded heibio. Fe wnaethom ni benderfynu mai yma fyddai cartref newydd The Pod dros yr haf.

Mae gan y lleoliad gysylltiad hyfryd â'r môr ac roeddem ni’n gobeithio y byddai digon o gwsmeriaid i ni allu aros ar agor.

Diogelwch cwsmeriaid a staff

Fe wnaethom benderfynu, am resymau diogelwch, y byddem ni’n dilyn model tecawê yn unig ac na fyddem ni’n ychwanegu unrhyw gadeiriau wrth ymyl The Pod. Roedd hyn er mwyn i gwsmeriaid allu prynu eu bwyd o bellter diogel ac yna dod o hyd i rywle i'w fwyta i ffwrdd o gwsmeriaid eraill.

Fe wnaethom farcio bylchau 2 fetr ar y llawr a defnyddio potiau cimwch a rhwystr fel bod cwsmeriaid hefyd 2 fetr oddi wrthym ni yn The Pod wrth archebu. Fe wnaethom lynu’n agos at ganllawiau a rhestr wirio ailagor wedi’u diweddaru gan y Llywodraeth i sicrhau bod The Pod wedi'i osod yn gywir. Fe wnaethom ailwirio unrhyw beth yr oeddem ni’n ei wneud yn wahanol oherwydd COVID-19.

Ailstocio'n gynnar

Yn ein hamser hamdden, fe benderfynom ni ddechrau ailstocio'r cregyn gleision yn gynharach nag y byddem ni fel arfer. Roedd hyn er mwyn i ni allu parhau i gael cyflenwad da ac roedd yn bwysig i ni gan nad oeddem ni wir yn gwybod beth fyddai dyfodol ein busnes.

Roedd hyn yn golygu fy mod i filltir allan ar y môr ar y gwelyau cregyn gleision, felly roeddwn i'n bendant yn cadw pellter cymdeithasol!

Cyfathrebu â chwsmeriaid

Roedd rhannu’r wybodaeth ddiweddaraf â’n dilynwyr a'n cwsmeriaid am yr hyn yr oeddem ni’n ei wneud a lle'r oeddem ni bellach wedi ein lleoli yn allweddol i ni. Maent fel arfer yn ein dilyn o amgylch y wlad i wahanol wyliau a digwyddiadau, felly fe wnaeth y cyfryngau cymdeithasu ein helpu i rannu ein taith wahanol iawn eleni. Fe wnaethom ni rannu diweddariadau rheolaidd ar y mesurau diogelwch roeddem ni wedi'u rhoi ar waith a lluniau o The Pod fel bod ein cwsmeriaid yn gallu gweld beth roeddem ni wedi'i wneud a sut i ddod o hyd i ni.

Gwybodaeth am alergenau

Mae'r cregyn gleision eu hunain yn alergenau, sef molysgiaid. Mae gennym ni arwyddion clir am hynny ac unrhyw un o'r 14 alergen arall a ddefnyddiwn wrth goginio'r cregyn gleision, fel hufen neu laeth.

Fe wnaethom ni hefyd wirio cynhwysion unrhyw gynhyrchion newydd yr oedd yn rhaid i ni eu defnyddio oherwydd COVID-19. Roedd gwirio ein bod ni’n cydymffurfio bob cam o'r ffordd yn hanfodol gan ei fod yn gyfnod peryg iawn.

Rhannu gwybodaeth

Fe wnaethom barhau i rannu ein gwybodaeth am gregyn gleision gyda'n cwsmeriaid gan eu bod wrth eu boddau yn dysgu sut rydym ni’n eu puro gan ddefnyddio goleuadau uwchfioled (UV) i'w sterileiddio a ffeithiau cregyn gleision eraill.

Fe wnaethon ni sylwi hefyd fod cwsmeriaid eisiau gwybod mwy am darddiad y bwyd roedden nhw'n ei fwyta oherwydd y pandemig. Oherwydd ein bod yn ffermio'r cregyn gleision ein hunain, rydym ni’n gallu trafod y broses gyfan. Roedd hyn yn bwysig i ni gan ei fod yn gyfle i dawelu eu meddyliau yr un pryd â gweini cregyn gleision blasus iddynt.

Beth ddysgoch chi?

Fe wnaethon ni ddysgu bod angen i ni fod yn hyblyg a chwilio am bob cyfle posib ar ôl i ni gael gwybod bod digwyddiadau a gwyliau wedi’u canslo. Roedd hyn yn bwysig iawn gan fod The Mussel Pod yn fwy proffidiol nag ochr gyfanwerthol y busnes.
Roedd angen i ni ddeall yn gyflym yr hyn y gallem ei wneud a sut i gydymffurfio â'r canllawiau COVID-19 newydd i gadw pawb yn ddiogel heb gyfaddawdu ar ein safonau uchel arferol.

Roedd y ffaith ein bod yn fusnes bwyd stryd symudol yn help gan fod pobl eisiau bod tu allan wrth fwyta gan eu bod yn teimlo'n fwy diogel ac yn gallu dod o hyd i le diogel oddi wrth eraill i fwyta eu cregyn gleision.

Beth sydd ar y gweill dros y 6-12 mis nesaf ar gyfer eich busnes?

Fel busnes, rydym ni'n edrych ymhellach i’r dyfodol ac yn buddsoddi yn y gwelyau cregyn gleision ac yn eu hailstocio yn llawer cynharach eleni. Drwy wneud hynny, byddant yn cael eu stocio'n llawn erbyn yr Hydref. Gallwn ni hefyd fod yn hyblyg gyda'n cregyn gleision, gan eu dal yn ôl yn yr harbwr heb gyfaddawdu ar yr ansawdd - maen nhw'n parhau i dyfu.

Byddwn ni’n parhau i asesu’r sefyllfa o ran gwyliau a digwyddiadau a chynllunio ac addasu yn unol â hynny.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Greg Murphy posted on

    Fabulous quality food in a beautiful Norfolk coastal setting.
    Delighted that a local (6 or 7th generation) family are making a living in this beautiful area.
    Shame though that the local population are priced out of the local housing market thanks to the second house home owners!!
    Will keep supporting the venture when we visit again soon.


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