How the hospitality industry are fighting the Covid-19 crisis
The catastrophic consequences of Covid-19 have been felt in all sectors of the economy, but the hospitality industry – a machine powered by face-to-face custom – has suffered critical damage. From food stalls to local cafes to acclaimed Michelin-starred kitchens, businesses have been forced to close their doors as social gatherings are outlawed and even the most loyal clients retreat into isolation. Though some have had the resources to adapt to the current climate, the fate of many British restaurants is uncertain with unemployment so high and margins so low. Given these uncertain times, it’s all the more remarkable that so many of the country’s hard-hit chefs have been teaming up and using their skills and spare time to help those in need.
In the spirit of goodwill, service in many areas has been resumed, with charity projects springing up all over the nation to help feed and fund key workers at this critical moment. One of these initiatives is Hospitality for Heroes, a grassroots campaign set up to provide meals for frontline NHS staff. On top of catering to medical professionals, the aim is to keep the industry alive by working with both local suppliers and chefs, as well as to promote healthy eating during the pandemic.
On a similar vein, Meals for the NHS have been fundraising to feed hungry hospital workers across the country, but rather than employing their own team, the charity work with local restaurants in order to help keep small businesses afloat. Drawing from an even bigger pool of workers are Furloughed Foodies, who are encouraging food lovers to volunteer from their own homes, cooking and delivering nutritious meals to NHS workers.
Stephen Tozer, owner of Carnaby Street’s Le Bab, appears to be working just as hard to tackle the effects of the pandemic, though with a slightly different strategy. His not-for-profit organisation, The London Restaurant Cooperative, has a three-pronged approach: keep staff in the kitchen and off furlough; provide cheap meals for those in need; help the homeless and the NHS. For just £6.50, the team are offering daily food delivery throughout most of zone one and two, with two meal options available – either meat or vegetarian. If you throw on an extra £4, they will also send a free meal either to someone at UCL hospital or to The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields homeless shelter.
Indeed, the hospitality industry are endeavouring to feed not only those on the front line, but also those who are most isolated or at risk. City Harvest, a West London-based food distribution charity, have managed to source nearly half a million meals for the elderly and vulnerable from nationwide food donations. The organisation has seen a huge influx of offerings from restaurants, who have been donating surplus stock during the lockdown. Indeed, all manner of companies are lending a hand in a variety of ways: Marriages Freres have been sending teabags straight to the NHS, popular chain Paul have been delivering baked goods across the country and Double Dutch is donating £5 to charity for every quarantine pack purchased. Support is also blossoming in small scale projects: For example, in Cumbrian Village Cartmel acclaimed chef Simon Rogan is providing free meals for the most vulnerable members of the community.
Never before have times been so tough for chefs and caterers of all levels, and yet never before has the true meaning of hospitality been so well demonstrated. It seems that though the fires are burning low, while there are people who need feeding, passion, and more crucially, compassion, are fuel enough to keep the culinary workforce in the kitchen.