Coronavirus: Ways the UK drinks and hospitality industries are coping
With the outbreak of Covid-19 hitting the food and drink industry hard, we’ve rounded up some of the innovative ways in which companies are dealing with the situation.
As the coronavirus situation rapidly escalated in recent weeks, restaurants, pubs and bars – and the companies that supply these venues – were left in the lurch.
At the start of this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised UK citizens to stay away from social venues like restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres and music venues.
He said the government had the power to enforce the closure of such establishments, but did not deem it necessary at this stage.
To support the industry during this challenging time, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the business rates holiday announced in last week’s budget to cover all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. He also said that said that for those businesses that have insurance policies which cover pandemics, that “the government action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy”.
In addition, the government sent out a press release yesterday stating that it will set out measures to enable pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways in order to serve people having to remain at home.
Planning rules will be relaxed temporarily in order for these changes to be made as soon as possible. Planning permission is usually required for businesses to make such alterations.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the pandemic and support people, businesses and communities through this difficult time.
“These changes will provide vital flexibility to pubs and restaurants and will ensure people are able to safely stay at home while still supporting some of the great local businesses across this country.
“The government has confirmed the relaxations to planning rules will be put in place as soon as possible to provide reassurance to businesses and enable them to start providing takeaways to people quickly.”
The changes will apply to hot food and non-alcoholic drinks – alcoholic drinks will still be subject to existing laws. Businesses must tell their local planning authority when the new use begins and ends.
While many restaurants have shut in the past week, some are thinking outside the box in an effort to mitigate losses caused by the coronavirus. Scroll through to see how drinks companies and restaurants are coping.
Have you seen an innovative approach to dealing with the coronavirus that you think may help others? Please comment below.
In a press release sent out today (18 March), HMRC said it is prioritising applications to use denatured alcohol in hand sanitising products.
Potential producers of hand sanitisers and gels will have their applications fast-tracked during the coronavirus outbreak to deal with the shortage in such products.
HMRC said that in the last three weeks, it has increased the limit of authorised use denatured alcohol in the production of hand sanitiser gels, totalling 2.5 million additional litres.
Drinks companies, particularly distillers, are well placed to make such products. Those companies making these products already include Bristol’s Psychompomp Microdistillery & Circumstance Distillery, Silent Pool Distillery in Surrey and brewer and distiller BrewDog. Others include LVMH (in France), Altia (in Finland) and Absolut Vodka (in Sweden).
Free / discounted deliveries to your door
Many local retailers, smaller distributors, wineries, breweries and distilleries are either offering free or heavily discounted deliveries. Many of these offers only apply to the local area, but please check with your local supplier.
Larger suppliers are mostly continuing with the delivery side of their operations, while office staff work from home.
Companies are able to drop your order at your door if you’re unable to leave the house due to self-isolation. Some are offering a more tailored service than usual, for example Westerham Brewery in Kent has a ‘self-isolation’ option, allowing customers to drive to the brewery, call a number and a member of staff will bring out an order to the boot. Chesters Wine Merchants in Abergavenny is even offering a wine-by-bike delivery option.
Casamigos Tequila has unveiled delivery “within the hour” to Londoners, while Scout Bar in Hackney is offering its customers a pick-up and delivery service, bottling its classic cocktails, including the Negroni, Manhattan and Vesper, in 200ml and 500ml containers. The bar has plans to expand this service in due course.
Hedonism Wines will be continuing with deliveries as normal in London and nationwide and will maintain shipping internationally. It is offering free delivery on orders over six bottles in London and UK.
Some businesses are also lifting minimum orders requirements for delivery, enabling customers to order wine and other alcohol at the volumes they require.
Following the government announcement yesterday, it is expected that more restaurants, and even tap rooms and bars, will move to a takeaway-only service.
Those already operating in this way include craft brewer Cloudwater, which is offering take-outs only at its Manchester city centre and Bermondsey tap rooms.
Restaurants are also switching up their models. London Italian Trullo has launched a takeaway menu with wine and beer for diners to take away and heat up at home.
Rick Stein Restaurants is offering takeaway menus with a 20% discount at its cafés and The Cornish Arms pub.
Others, like wine bar Sager + Wilde, are offering discounts on wine to buy and take home.
Additional ideas include ‘The Pub in a Box’ scheme, unveiled by London craft brewery Signature, for those who have to self-isolate. The box includes the brewer’s core beers, beer glasses, beer mats, a vinyl record, a pub quiz, a playlist and pub snacks.
Mathew Carver, founder of The Cheese Truck, The Cheese Bar and Pick & Cheese has also decided to mobilise his fleet of cheese trucks in London. Having closed its Seven Dials site, the team are instead bringing ‘Self Isolation Survival Kits’ of British cheese and wine to those who aren’t going out. According to a statement, these kits contain everything you need to create the “ultimate cheeseboard at home” and are suitable for 2 to 3 people to share.
Buy your meal ahead vouchers
Restaurants and cafés across the country are offering the option to buy vouchers, either for an experience at a later date, or as credit for a next visit.
Some are also using purchases at their premises to help other local businesses. For example, Pressure Drop Brewing in north London is offering a £25 credit to a customer-chosen independent pub, restaurant or retail outlet when orders of 15 cans or more are placed online.
With major trade shows cancelled or postponed this year, and travel restricted, it is expected that we will see a rise in virtual events and tastings.
Portugal Wine Week, an event aimed at the wine trade, was held earlier this week when ProWein was meant to have been taking place.
Organised by online wine retailer Adegga, the event consisted of a series of interviews with wine producers, hosted by Portuguese wine specialist Andre Ribeirinho.
Amber Beverage Group is also offering a series of digital masterclasses for its brands Riga Black Balsam, Moskovskaya Vodka, Cross Keys Gin and Rooster Rojo Tequila. The most active participants of the masterclasses will be rewarded with survival packages sent to their homes.
Companies such as Netherlandish-based Tubes are offering solutions to shipping wine samples, offering producers the chance to ship samples of their new releases in by-the-glass measures. Neither of these concepts are new, but demand is expected to increase given the current climate.