- Research from CGA shows that 53% of the public are either currently using, or planning to use, delivery as an alternative during the current crisis, with 13% getting delivery from a restaurant or takeaway either for the first time, or more often than usual, in the last two weeks.
- Some chefs and restaurant operators could benefit from offering meal kit services, according to Mintel. The market research company revealed that 20% of Brits have bought chef/restaurant-branded meal kits (such as a sushi making kit from Yo! Sushi), while a further 30% said they were interested in buying them.
- Some food operators are remaining open for delivery during the crisis to serve key workers or feed those in need. Examples include LEON, which has kept its sites open near hospitals.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, so when the Prime Minister told restaurants, pubs and cafes they had to close on Friday 20 March to help tackle coronavirus, they were forced to think differently about their businesses.
Although diners can no longer be served on the premises, food businesses are permitted to sell takeaways for collection, or delivery, so many outlets – if takeaway had never been an option before – quickly adapted their dishes for home consumption.
Ombra head chef Mitshel Ibrahim promptly transformed his Venetian Bacaro in Hackney into a pastificio (pasta production lab) and deli. As well as selling essentials like coffee, eggs, tinned tomatoes and cheese, he has developed a takeaway menu comprising dried pasta to cook at home with some restaurant-made sauces and a lasagne for Sundays.
A number of pubs, like The Bull at Ditchling in East Sussex have pared down their menus and are offering takeaway versions of their classic dishes like burgers and fish & chips, while restaurants like The Greek street food restaurant Athenian are even planning to open new delivery-only kitchens with Deliveroo Editions to help meet demand for takeaway.
Ben Cooke, chef-owner of The Little Gloster on the Isle of Wight, is making sure his regulars can still eat his prized roast pork, which has been a constant on the menu since the restaurant opened 10 years ago, by offering it for collection or delivery.
“It's kind of an institution at the restaurant with regulars coming every week for it,” he says. “We usually order a little extra pork so the team can all sit down together and enjoy as a family after a week of service. I knew it travelled well, as sometimes I’ll take some to my mumma and mormor (grandmother).”
Ben Cooke, chef-owner of The Little Gloster on the Isle of Wight, describes how he's turning his Sunday roast restaurant offering - Roast loin of Isle of Wight pork - into a takeaway item: “This dish comprises a roast loin of Isle of Wight pork (Danish style), crackling and my mate Will's organic veg from Living Larder (currently mixed brassica sprouts, kale, rainbow chard, little carrots roasted in herbs from our seaside garden, garlic from The Garlic Farm, and glazed with local honey). Instead of apple sauce we use asier, which is a Danish pickle. It's not as sweet as apple sauce and works so well. My mormor (grandmother) taught me how to roast the pork and to serve the asier with it. We finish the dish with roast potatoes that we cook in the fat from the gravy that we start the week leading up to Sunday. The gravy is like liquid gold – the kitchen are very protective of it because it takes so long to make. We garnish the dish with fried sage. We haven’t changed the dish at all for takeaway. We have two types of containers that we use to put it in - a plastic re-useable/recyclable tub and a tin takeaway-style container (this is also recyclable in our area). The meat goes into the plastic one with the green vegetables and asier in a little pot inside and the roast potatoes, carrots and crackling in the other to stay crispy. Before we send it, we pour lashings of extra hot gravy over the meat and get the lid on sharpish. We suggest people warm their plates and have a warm oven ready so in case they order starters they can plate it up – cover – then enjoy when they are ready for it.”
Mitshel Ibrahim, head chef of Ombra in Hackney, London, has developed pasta dishes for takeaway: “Our pre-coronavirus menu normally focuses on pasta - and we are used to occasional requests from our regulars for boxes of pasta to cook at home. However, due to space limitations, we were only able to offer this service if people pre-ordered it - making it a bit less inclusive for those that were a bit less organised or spontaneous. So when we decided to close our doors as a restaurant, instead of sending our staff away we figured that everyone loves pasta, so let's make heaps of it and sell it with a couple of simple sauces. Pasta doesn't travel well once cooked - the starch binds it together as the pasta cools turning into a gloopy, lumpy mess – so we thought about selling uncooked pasta for people to cook for themselves at home and assemble with sauces which we also prepare. In terms of ingredients, we use exactly the same suppliers who we are very happy to be able to support during this time. So far, it's been a success, as a 'Sunday only' special we offer trays of lasagna which went down well - if I was self isolating I'd love to spend my Sunday watching a lame ass movie while my lasagna (which was delivered to my doorstep) bakes in the oven; ready for me to dive right into 20minutes later.”
Dev Biswal, chef-owner of The Ambrette in Canterbury and Margate, has developed a whole new menu designed for delivery: “The Ambrette has never offered takeaways, because my style of cooking and presentation could never survive transportation, so I’ve developed new dishes that travel. Having read the industry reports which all predict significant growth of the delivery market, it’s something I’d been given serious thought to for some time. The crash in footfall surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, means I’ve just brought those plans forward. The menus include starters such as Baby monkfish tail grilled with tandoori spices, saddle of lamb in a pickling marinade and crispy dosa with vegetables and masala potatoes. Our mains come with a rice, poppadum, salad and seasonal vegetables and include slow goat stroganoff with Indian spices, oriental-style chicken thighs with ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk and rolled seabass in a kerala-style moilee sauce.”