A Boston cafe has recently been named as being finalists within a nationwide competition.

The Little Kitchen, located within Boston’s Waterfall Plaza shopping complex, has recently been successful in making its way through a variety of stages to reach the final of the British Industry Awards “Out of home business of the year”.

We met up with Oana Cunningham, who owns and manages The Little Kitchen, for a coffee and delicious slice of cake, and this is what she said.

“I opened the doors to The Little Kitchen back November 2014 with the help and encouragement of my husband Ian.

Originally, we were located on the corner of Red Lion Street in the place of a well known cafe "The Land of Green Ginger" until 3 years ago when we moved across the road into the Waterfall Plaza along side other business and we've been there ever since.

We have a large private al-fresco area overlooking the attractive and historic Sessions House and a eye-catching view of Boston Stump. Our indoor area is a mixture of country feel with a log burner to a modern industrial decor.

Our open plan kitchen gives a rare opportunity to our customers to see us in action cooking and baking. We have maintained our 5 star food and hygiene rating from our local EHO, we have been semifinalists in British Sandwich Designer of the year 2017, 2018 and 2020, along with being in top 20 restaurants on TripAdvisor.

We offer a variety of homemade dishes from All Day Full English Breakfast, to gourmet sandwiches, Afternoon Teas and homemade cakes, which change on a weekly basis, and we take in consideration customers with gluten and dairy allergies and also stock a generous variety of delicious vegan cakes.

With all that was going on and happened this year I forgot about the competition. When I received the email, at a glance, I thought it was part of marketing however reading through it I soon realised that it was a bearer of good news that I had made it to the British Industry Awards Semifinal at "Out of Home Business of the Year" category.

I was over the moon with the news! I remember being home couldn't stop smiling! I felt that, at last, something to be excited about following a terrible year. We did not realise that in the mean time judges visited our premises as secret customers. Obviously this happened during the time we was open after first lockdown ended.

I was invited to present my entry to the judges online through a live chat room (to adhere with regulations in place because of COVID-19) where I had to answer an array of questions, such as short to mid term strategies for retailing bakery products, main trend influences in our bakery sales, pre covid, during and after, what do we do to delight our customers from quality to experience in the cafe, key innovations we have brought and how do we develop as a team and maintain our standards and how do we stand out from the competitors.

It was strange trying to impress the judges through a video meeting....after spending 40 minutes of answering questions and presenting them with the entire history of TLK, it made me realise that in this 6 years of having my own business, I have achieved new skills in life and made lots of customer friends...and I was somehow pleased with myself.

If COVID-19 was to be the end of my business I would have been sad but also thankful for everything I have gained so far. After a long wait I received another email, which said: "Following extensive judging, we confirm that you have been selected as a finalist in this year's competition. The panel of expert judges faced some tough decisions this year with numerous entries".

The the first email, I was over the moon, but this time, as a finalist I felt nervous, knowing that I am so close to be the winner, although I am up against 2 more business one of them being Costa Coffee. The winners will be revealed during the prestigious virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday 20th January 2021.

I have a nearly 3 year old son however I felt a massive weight on my shoulders, worried about the business and its future, about my family and anxious about the virus itself. Every day I was leaving for work not knowing if I am bringing the virus home to my family or not, even though we have the most COVID stringent procedures in our cafe to protect our staff and customers. We have gained some amazing customers, some of which I class more like friends now. Their support has been out of this world, especially morally. We need them to carry on supporting us as, without them, we would not be here and their support is our existence and we are deeply grateful for it.

We will try and focus on the future, grey as it is...somehow the sunshine pierces through the clouds and makes everything bright again. We are looking forward to the virtual ceremony...might wear a frock or my dressing gown. i will definitely celebrate the event no matter the result. I already feel like a winner looking back at the last 6 years.”

Oana CunninghamThe Little Kitchen