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Minute on the clock: Tom Barton, Honest Burgers

08 May 2020 by
Minute on the clock: Tom Barton, Honest Burgers

The co-founder of Honest Burgers speaks to Emma Lake about the business's lockdown charity fundraiser, which saw burger-making kits sent across London, and reopening the group's sites

What prompted you to launch your Honest at Home week-long charity appeal?

I wish I could say it was our idea, but we saw Patty & Bun do [burger-making kits] and we loved the idea so we gave it a go. Everyone is struggling with reality right now, so we were all for giving people a little taste of what life used to be like.

The three charities we decided to work with all have such a tough challenge ahead of them, so we felt it was right to try and support them as best we could.

Honest at Home burger kits
Honest at Home burger kits

How difficult was it to set up and manage?

I think it's fair to say we underestimated the demand! As a result, we had some teething problems in the first couple of days (sorry about that!).

We ended up crashing [online butcher] Turner & George's website twice, because the first day saw about 4,000 people try to get a kit. We also managed to crash our own website, even after we prepped it – the demand just kept on getting bigger and bigger each day.

Throughout the week we had more than 10,000 people trying to get their hands on one – it was crazy. It was also great to see people get behind the idea and some who were not even able to get hold of a kit still wanted to donate. That made it all worthwhile.

How much was raised in the effort?

In total we raised £8,800, which is going to the Trussell Trust food banks, Hospitality Action and the Landworkers' Alliance.

Would you consider launching another similar venture while restaurants are unable to open?

Funny you should mention that... We're working on it at the moment. The response was encouraging to say the least, so it's how we ramp it up now.

What was the response like from Honest fans and how else have you been communicating with them during the lockdown?

It's been incredible. We had so many people get in touch, even a few cheeky favours being pulled in from suppliers who wanted one [a burger kit]! It was pretty funny watching it unfold.

Our overall communication to our customers through lockdown has been the same as ever, if not slightly more ramped up. We want our customers to know we're still here and to let them know what we're doing to get by.

I think it's really important to keep the communication channels alive. I'm missing our food just as much as our customers, so it's nice to have a chat with them about it.

Everyone is struggling with reality right now, so we were all for giving people a little taste of what life used to be like

Have you been able to keep in touch with your teams during the lockdown?

That's been a huge task and one I think we've done a great job at. We've got a weekly Stay Connected calendar that has loads going on, from gardening lessons, nutrition classes, yoga, even some 80s HIIT classes from me. It's so important to keep some normality and when I see big companies going into complete hibernation, I feel bad for the teams as a huge line of support has been shut off.

How are you feeling about reopening the restaurants in the coming weeks or months?

We feel confident. We've had a few weeks to put together a solid, robust plan to get back up and running, albeit for delivery only. It's important to give our teams the chance to get back to work and build up towards opening our doors to customers when the timing is right.

When that does happen, we're all going to have to adapt to what reality looks like. I'm sure it will be very different to anything we've seen before but we're all in this together, and I'm not just talking about restaurant owners – customers are craving their favourite restaurants now more than ever, so I'm sure we'll find a solution.

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