In these unprecedented times the hospitality and foodservice sector has been thrown a curve ball of unfathomable proportions. As a specialist foodservice agency we feel for all the restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels trying to make the best of a what is a hugely challenging and scary situation. Of course the wellbeing and safety of staff and the population as a whole is paramount and Boris was quite right to do what he did in the circumstances, but it has been a belly blow to the sector.
That said, it has also bought out some ingenious and in some cases altruistic moves. It is said necessity is the mother of all invention and how true that is. Here are just some of the many examples of this quick pivot in the days of Covid 19…
Café Turned Green Grocer
I don’t have to go too far to see a real life example of the foodservice pivot, as on my local high street in Ashtead, Surrey the local café was quick to react and change (overnight seemly) into a greengrocer. Rather then serving fry-ups to the local trade, they switch to selling mixed crates of veg, fruit, fresh eggs and sacks of potatoes, at a time when every supermarket shelf seemed to be stripped of exactly these essentials.
Well done to them! Not only was this undoubtedly a shrewd business move on their part, crucially it met a real need from the community. The reaction to the news as it spread on my close’s WhatsApp group bears testimony to what a great idea it is. They open early with fresh produce from Covent Garden market, they keep it simple so you just choose a mixed crate (no faffing and browsing, just point, grab, tap and go – all from a safe two meter distance). It’s a great service and one other businesses could certainly learn by. Not only that, I believe this clever move will have bought them the kind of customer loyalty that will continue long after all this has ended. I for one, having never been to Munchies on the high street before will make a point of going when it is back up and running as a café, as a thank you for being there when we needed you!
Fish & Chip Shop Take Away and Delivery
Having worked on Lord Chips and currently on the UK’s no.1 Malt Vinegar – Sarson’s, fish & chip shops are very front of mind at the moment for me and it was with great interest that I read the sign posted in the window of our local chippie explaining that they would be continuing with take away (what better comfort food in these troubled times!). Not only that, it stated that they would be running a take a ticket ordering system so customers could wait outside or in their empty restaurant area 2 meters apart. I also noted on closer inspection that they had a Uber Eats sticker in the window. This was a revelation as I didn’t even know Uber Eats covered our area – bonus! Well done to Super Fish for carrying on responsibly and undoubtedly helping to keep our little village going with their amazing fish and chips.
Paul Ainsworth Feeding The Community
Further from home in Padstow (prior to shut down), chef proprietor Paul Ainsworth looked to do something truly fabulous to support his local community and keep his chefs busy in the kitchen by batch cooking free meals and delivering them to those in need in the local area. If Paul wasn’t already my favourite chef he certainly would be now. That of course is not to say he is alone. Instagram and Twitter is awash with amazing chef teams cooking up a storm to feed NHS workers, hospitals and their local community. Some of course are selling the meals to help make ends meet, others are donating or giving substantial discounts for key workers. It shows that even though these guys are facing the toughest time of their career they are still thinking of others. Bravo! We look forward to hopefully seeing you in August (fingers crossed!).
Much like the personal trainers who are now switching their classes to YouTube or Zoom, chefs across the land are giving demos and sharing recipes on social media. Helping those self-isolating and on lock-down cook up delicious meals to enjoy at home. In this way they are they using their skills to help their followers, whilst also keeping alive the passion they have for cooking.
Hotels for the Homeless
If latest reports are to be believed it may be that some hotels may be kept open and co-opted by the government to house the homeless who cannot self-isolate. It is of course sad that it has taken this crisis to get people off the streets, but it makes sense both for them and the public at large when we’re looking to ‘flatten the curve’. Sad to think however that if this does happen and they get in out of the cold they will be back on the streets when all this is over. Key workers are also being offered free beds for the night to avoid them having to commute on public transport, which seems like a great idea, but must be hard for those who will be missing their families.
Excel Field Hospital
It seems only moments ago that I was at ExCel for HRC. Now it seems it will be a huge field hospital. It’s hard to imagine, but also incredible that the organisers have worked with the government to make this happen. Hats off to them. It is heart breaking that we will not very long from now need this facility, but needs must.
But what can brands who sell into foodservice do when their customers are shut down? Well, as much as most of the profit sector (pubs, hotels, restaurants, leisure etc.) is currently closed for business. The cost sector – hospitals, some schools, care homes, etc. is firmly open (with the exception of business and industry contract catering, which has of course been effectively been put on hold by the move to work from home). And it’s not just the cost sector, there are operators out there such as Indian takeaways and fish & chip shops offering delivery and take away, which are still very much online, so now is the time to review and if needed refocus plans to help support customers in whatever way you can to build business where the opportunities are.
Delivery was already shaking up the eating out market and the current crisis has basically given them the market on a plate (or should I say scooter). They were going from strength to strength before Covid 19 (see our recent blog on the rise of delivery) and now it seems they will be one of the few winners in foodservice whilst this continues.
So for brands, there are a few simple questions to ask…What products do you have that fit this new market landscape? What currently are the best sectors for your to focus on? What can you offer to help build brand loyalty and be there for customers at this time (open and closed)? Most importantly – How can you help?
Above are just some of the ways ‘necessity has become the mother of all invention’. Of course they may be out of date by the time you read this article, as things are moving at breakneck speed during this crisis, with developments every day, but whatever the challenges this terrible time brings, this is a creative and resourceful sector and one that in time I’m sure will come back fighting.
Stay safe and stay home.