Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: supermarkets introduce new rules to quell panic buying and stockpiling

All the news, reviews and trends from 21-22 March, including McDonald’s closing all its UK restaurants and allergy sufferers at risk due to lack of ‘free from’ items

23 March 2020
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Food news

Allergy sufferers at risk due to stockpiling

Food allergy charity Allergy UK has appealed to shoppers to think about those with medical intolerances, and autoimmune diseases like coeliac disease, who are struggling to find food to eat due to panic buying and stockpiling. “A mother of a young child with an allergy to cow’s milk has told the charity that she could not buy the oat milk her child needed because the product had been cleared [by other people],” Allergy UK said. The Food Standards Agency says there are an estimated 2 million people living with a diagnosed food allergy in the UK.


Supermarkets introduce new rules to quell panic buying and stockpiling

All the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have introduced new measures to help quell panic-buying and stockpiling to ensure their shelves remain stock with essential food and household items. These measures include new opening hours, practising social distancing, a cap on the number of items people can buy in one go, and dedicated hours for the elderly, vulnerable, NHS and social care workers.


Shoppers urged to shop more responsibly

Shoppers are being warned by both the government and in letters from supermarket CEOs to shop more responsibly, with environment secretary George Eustice claiming that Brits have bought an estimated £1bn of food that they have not yet eaten. “As you shop, think of those who are finishing their late shifts and need to pop to the shop at the end of a long day,” he said.


McDonald’s to shut up shop in UK

McDonald’s will today shut all its restaurants in the UK and Ireland by 7pm after the company had already removed all its seating areas but was continuing to serve takeaway food. The fast-food company said it had made the decision to protect the “wellbeing and safety” of its employees and customers. One McDonald’s restaurant had previously used tape on the floor to mark where customers should stand to encourage social distancing.


Doctors worry of cross-infecting during ‘silver hour’

Doctors have warned that NHS workers and the elderly could be cross-infecting each other during the designated ‘silver hour’ for vulnerable people. Heart doctor Lisa Anderson, who works at St George's Hospital in London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she feared the decision by a number of supermarkets to mix special shopping hours for the elderly and NHS workers could result in cross contamination between the two groups. "Sainsbury's this morning has announced that they are opening up the early hours to the frail, elderly and NHS workers. We are cross-infecting everybody at the moment,” she said.


Supermarkets booming amid coronavirus pandemic

While the eating and drinking out market has grinded to a halt, the UK’s biggest supermarkets are booming as consumers continue to stockpile during the coronavirus outbreak. According to the latest figures, sales at the big four chains — Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons — were up approximately 50% up year-on-year. There is also £1bn more food in homes than three weeks ago, the British Retail Consortium said.


Independent food stores

And according to an article in the Financial Times, many independent food stores across the UK are also enjoying surging sales thanks to the coronavirus outbreak. More shoppers are now opting to buy from local shops because of the huge crowds at the big supermarkets which have also struggled to keep pace with demand.


Grocers blame distributors for empty shelves

Supermarket bosses have blamed the shortage of essential food and household goods on the shelves on a shortage of lorries, drivers and workers and limited storage space. In private, they are understood to have said that the unprecedented demand is forcing a total overhaul of normal operations, which are “creaking” under the strain.


Restaurant owners threaten rent strike

The UK’s restaurant owners are calling on landlords for a rent holiday, with many declaring they will simply refuse to pay and hope property owners do not ask for the keys back. Kate Nicolls, chief executive of the trade body UK Hospitality, said landlords should “step up and do the right thing”. “They should defer this quarter’s rent and take it over a year,” she said.


Hotel Chocolat raises £22m due to downturn of footfall

British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has raised £22m from investors after facing disruption of Mother’s Day and Easter trading due to coronavirus. The company said it expects there to be a continued reduction in high street footfall but that it hoped to mitigate some of that by shifting stock to its online business.


Food review

Farmyard, 23 St Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4PF

Although restaurants have closed right across the country, Jay Rayner was still able to sneak in a review of the Farmyard in Norwich in The Guardian this weekend. Rayner says Farmyard is the kind of restaurant that brings out the maternal in him as the menu “so ambitiously all over the place”, drawing inspiration from everywhere, from Mexico or Japan, north Africa or Spain. However, while he says the language of the menu is a bit trying, he believes the food on the plate works, for the most part. Rayner says: “It is for restaurant goers who are happy to give the kitchen permission to try just a little harder and attempt just a little more. And really, couldn’t we all do with a restaurant like that?”

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