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5 things you can do to help small food businesses survive the coronavirus crisis

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

NatashaLS

Mar 18, 2020
14 minutes to read
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With uncertain times ahead, it’s never been more important to #shoplocal and support small businesses. But with recommendations changing all the time and the government advising against visiting pubs, restaurants and crowded places, how can shoppers do their bit while still staying safe?

Words: Natasha Lovell-Smith

1. SHOP LOCAL ONLINE

It seems obvious, but while most of us will automatically go to the supermarkets to buy groceries online, many local grocers and farm shops can also offer home delivery, or at least click and collect services. In fact, with there now being lengthy waits for delivery slots from all of the major supermarkets (Ocado is currently only offering deliveries for existing customers) it makes practical sense to see what’s available closer to home..

“Shopping patterns are changing but people still have to eat,” says Lance Forman at Forman & Field, a smoked salmon specialist that also sells luxury ready meals. “If you’re not going out to a restaurant to eat, why not buy something nice from a small producer instead? If you’ve got plenty of food, you could also consider buying food for relatives or friends who might not be able to go out and need cheering up.”

Laura Pickup, founder of online food company Discover Delicious Wales, says: “Small, local and independent food and drink producers face the very real prospect of going out of business if we all flock to the supermarket to panic buy. These are the very same businesses that provide many jobs and that reinvest their profits back into our local communities. Most rely heavily on local farmers markets and food festivals to reach their customers, many of which will now likely be cancelled.”

She suggests using supermarkets only when you can’t find what you need from your local and independent businesses. “Food festival or farmer’s market cancelled? Can’t get to the butcher, baker or greengrocer? There are lots of places where you can still ‘shop local’ online - and get your usual goodies delivered directly to your door. Request for your delivery to be left on your doorstep if you need a no-contact service.”

Darts Farm in Exeter are supporting their customers by offering free home delivery to over 70 year olds or collection in their car park. “Once we have cracked the essential food items for our local community we will be looking at how we can begin to cheer people up in this hard time. Our ‘Send Some Cheer’ post box hampers are a box of artisan treats that can be popped in the post and delivered to anyone that may need some cheer,” says owner Michael Dart.

Darts Farm, Exeter
Darts Farm, Exeter

2. BUY VOUCHERS

Purchasing a gift card to your favorite shop, pub or restaurant is an immediate way to put much-needed cash into the business that you can use at a later date. Kricket, which serves Indian-inspired small plates and has branches in Soho, Brixton and White City, is offering an extra 20 percent on any vouchers over £250, which will be valid at all three branches until the end of the year. The idea is that diners can buy these now but use them at some point in the future when things have hopefully calmed down a little.

“The prepaid loyalty vouchers help combat the immediate threat to our cash flow and secure the jobs of our staff. Furthermore, the additional 20% goodwill is a token of our appreciation to our loyal and loving customer base,” says Rik Campbell, co-founder of Kricket.

3. SEE IF YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT WILL DELIVER

Independent restaurants are likely to be some of the hardest hit businesses and many are now offering delivery, either directly or via apps like Just East, Uber Eats or Deliveroo. Paul Wedgwood, chef patron of Wedgwood the Restaurant in Edinburgh, says: “Now more than ever, we must all support each other. Look at local businesses that offer a delivery service; many independent cafes, restaurants and bakeries are now looking into this to keep the revenue coming in.”

“Contact your favourite restaurant and ask the question, they may do it for you. We have decided to launch a takeaway service for our customers, they can order online and pick it up from the restaurant. We are also exploring potentially offering a delivery service. There’s uncertain times ahead, we need to come together to ensure we all survive this.”

Jay Mistry, owner of Avocado Garden, a cafe in London’s Blackheath, is already feeling the effects. “The impact of COVID19 on the hospitality industry is seismic. Almost as soon as it hit the UK we felt the repercussions, and the situation has gone from bad to worse in recent days. We quickly realised we needed to be flexible and dynamic to weather this storm, and to support our local community as best we can.”

“Our no-contact delivery service was launched yesterday, in direct response to the virus taking hold in our local area. Our rationale for launching it was twofold: 1. It allows those in quarantine or self-isolation to continue to enjoy their favourite dishes, delivered fresh to their doorstep without contact, and 2. It provides us with an additional revenue stream to help us through this incredibly difficult time.”

However, Jurgen Ketel, MD of restaurant tech company Givex, suggests picking up your order if at all possible. “If you’re practising self-isolation but still want to order in, try to order from a local restaurant that you can walk or drive to and pick up your order. This will alleviate pressures on them to deliver,”

4. MAKE SIMPLE SHOPPING BASKET SWITCHES

“It is a nerve-wracking time for all food and drink businesses, particularly the smaller brands who could be affected by the impact of Coronavirus. They don’t have the cash to ride huge change like big brands, “ explains Theadora Alexander, co-founder and CEO of Young Foodies, which represents over 1,000 food & drink startups and small businesses.

“By their very nature, these small businesses are all too familiar with risk and uncertainty. And it’s their entrepreneurial spirit that is really shining through right now. But it’s a two-way street to ensure they make it through the marathon that lies ahead.”

Theadora urges shoppers to start making very simple switches in their grocery baskets, be they in-store or through online orders. “Rather than defaulting to big household brands because they’re easy to spot and they’re more familiar, consider opting for a lesser known independent brand of the same item. Try a lesser known pesto brand, stock up on smaller snacks and sweets brands. This very easy mindset change is a minor move for consumers but indescribably significant for young, cash-strapped founder-led businesses, and can really make all the difference to their livelihoods.”

5. SHARE, POST, PROMOTE

“Every social media like, comment, share and review helps tell others that we’re here and what we do,” says Sophie Pemble, who runs the Pepperbox Inn in Harrietsham. Indeed, sharing details about what the small businesses in your area are doing (whether that’s free delivery or special care boxes) and is crucial in spreading the word; your friends and family might also appreciate being introduced to a new local shop or restaurant as well.

“Reviews are so important for restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs, so show your support for your favourites, even if you can’t visit at the moment, by making sure you’ve reviewed them on all platforms. You can also post on your social channels about the great experience you’ve had (or are having) from there, to increase their exposure,” adds Jurgen Ketel at Givex

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