Week on a Plate

The week digested: coronavirus pandemic causes mass restaurant closures

Catch up on the food news from 16-20 March, including retailers working together amid panic buying crisis and operators moving to a takeaway-only model

20 March 2020

High street restaurant chain closures leave workers out to dry

Several high street restaurant chains have closed some or all of their establishments due to coronavirus, including Prezzo, the Yo! sushi group, TGI Friday’s and the Azzurri Group, with Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors trading at the UK’s biggest pub and restaurant groups, revealing restaurant sales were down 21% even before the PM’s advice on Monday.


Major retailers permitted to work together amid panic buying crisis

The government is relaxing laws so as to allow retailers to pool resources to meet overwhelming demand as coronavirus-fuelled stockpiling escalates. Supermarkets will be allowed to cooperate to keep shops open, to share distribution depots, staff and delivery vans, and to share stock level data under the temporary waiver, which was approved on Thursday evening.


Operators move to a takeaway-only model

Many foodservice operators have started to launch a takeaway-only model having been forced to close down restaurants and shops. Chain restaurants and food-to-go businesses made the switch this week, while fine dining establishments are also vying to operate a similar service.


Ocado servers flatline amid overwhelming demand

Online supermarket giant Ocado has witnessed 100 times the normal order levels on their website over the past week and have shut down their website until Saturday. Their app has also been disabled indefinitely. Duncan Tatton-Brown, 54, the chief financial officer, said that the website’s algorithms will be altered while new measures will be implemented to ensure a fair allocation of delivery slots.


“Chaos” as NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut restaurants forced to go takeout-only

Restaurants across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have become takeout-only, with all non-essential businesses ordered to close last Monday from 8pm. “It’s chaos,” New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said. “I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country’s out of control. There is no clear direction, there is no clear path.”


Big name restaurant players shutter up

A number of the UK’s most famous restaurants, including Quaglino’s, the Wolseley and the Brasserie Blanc chain, have temporarily closed their doors following the government’s advice to avoid social gatherings, with the trade body UK Hospitality urging the PM to instigate measures to support struggling businesses and out of work staff.


Shopping regulations to come into play

Sainsbury’s have, since Thursday, closed its cafés and its meat, fish and pizza counters to free up freight capacity for essential items, with the supermarket also bringing in a three per grocery product limit across its portfolio.

Morrisons, meanwhile, have switched to cashless to reduce the handling of potentially contaminated money, while a Tesco in Dublin has taken to marking its floors with black lines to ensure shoppers keep the recommended two metres apart in store. 


Carluccio’s boss calls for rent holiday

Mark Jones, chief executive of Italian chain Carluccio’s, has asked for more government help as the leisure industry suffers “extraordinary footfall declines” across the country, including a break from rent payments to landlords. Its restaurant site in Canary Wharf, he said, had experienced a 40 per cent slump in the past five days.


Food industry does its bit for NHS workers

The food industry is seeking to repay the hard work of NHS staff who are under immense pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Domino’s, for example, is giving away free pizza to medical staff today, while Pret, Greggs and McDonald’s have also made similar gestures in recent days.


Japanese cricket beer launches

In somewhat lighter news, a Japanese brewery has created a craft ale made with crickets, with Cricket Dark Ale described as having a chocolate and coffee aroma with a savoury and bitter taste balanced with undertones of caramel.

McDonald's Happy Meal
image credit: McDonald’s Corporation


McDonald’s to remove plastic toys from Happy Meals

McDonald’s plans to remove plastic toys from its Happy Meals as part of the fast food chain’s plan to help protect the environment. In a press release, the company stated that from 2021, every Happy Meal in the UK will include either a soft toy, a paper-based toy or a book, as opposed to a toy made from non-sustainable hard plastic.

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