Operators turn to takeaway and delivery as long-term strategy ahead of second lockdown

02 November 2020 by
Operators turn to takeaway and delivery as long-term strategy ahead of second lockdown

Deliveries and takeaways could become a long-term business strategy for restaurants even once Covid restrictions are lifted for operators.

This was the view of several chefs and restaurateurs who spoke to The Caterer as they prepared to refocus their operations ahead of the new lockdown for England coming into force on Thursday 5 November.

"Takeaways are here to stay," said Craig Bancroft, managing director of Northcote in Langho, Lancashire, which expects to increase the number of gourmet menu boxes – recently introduced via a click-and-collect system and national delivery operation – in the coming weeks.

Last week it sold 40 meals to prepare at home and is already at capacity for 180 meals to be delivered via overnight courier service or collected in the coming week.

"The hospitality industry is ever resourceful at being creative in dealing whatever is thrown at us and many of the initiatives we have introduced during the current crisis are likely to stay with us long-term, be it the deliveries, QR codes or the gin and whiskey trays delivered to bedrooms ahead of the 10pm curfew," said Bancroft.

"Some people who don't feel comfortable about going to restaurants will be ordering deliveries for some time."

Lisa Goodwin-Allen Craig Bancroft Northcote
Lisa Goodwin-Allen Craig Bancroft Northcote

However, he warned that businesses should be under no illusions about the huge logistics involved in operating takeaways and deliveries.

"You have got to think about the boxes, the wool liners, ice packs, detailed recipe sheets, the required fridge space and packaging and labelling process. Luckily, we have a large kitchen at Northcote, but it would not easy for a lot of restaurants."

Northcote's four-course autumn gourmet box for two people costs £85.

News of the forthcoming lockdown has propelled Adam Reid (pictured top), chef-patron at Adam Reid at the French at the Midland hotel in Manchester, to reintroduce a version of the menu box he sent out during the first lockdown.

Pre-prepared menu components based on Reid's four-course Great British Menu offer were delivered or collected during an eight-week period earlier in the year. Each box cost £95 per head and served at least two people.

Reid said that he had been considering reintroducing the boxes as a long-term additional revenue stream. "I need to finalise the menu before hopefully launching it next week," he explained.

"It is important to get it right as I do see it as something that we will offer for the long term," he explained. "The first box involved quite an ambitious menu. I expect the next one will be priced at around £85 for two and will be focused on what we do at the French."

It is important to get it right as I do see it as something that we will offer for the long term

Lussmans, the operator of four restaurants in Hertfordshire and one in Oxfordshire, said that it is taking steps to act fast in what is "an emergency situation" by reintroducing its Food to Go concept and extending it to being available nationwide. "We'll also sell on to our customers produce from our suppliers as a larder," said Andrei Lussman, founder of the business.

"We are constantly adapting to new rules and regulations and investing in new ways of working. I feel we are only burying the problem to resurface – we have to find a new way of working with this until we find a vaccine or we'll continue to lose businesses."

We have to find a new way of working with this until we find a vaccine or we'll continue to lose businesses

Sam Harrison of Sam's Riverside in Hammersmith, west London, said he never imagined he would operate any kind of delivery or takeaway service. But, in response to customers asking if he would do so during the first lockdown, he will introduce them for the first time on Friday.

Sam Harrison
Sam Harrison

He is putting together a hot menu, expecting dishes such as fish curry and venison stew will work, whereas the likes of whole Dover sole and rib-eye steak cooked to order will not.

"We will offer a click-and-collect service and personal delivery to within a two-mile radius of the restaurant," he said. "We won't be using a delivery partner as I'm not prepared to pay the delivery fees."

Harrison, however, hopes that deliveries and takeaways will not become an integral part of his business in the long term. "It is hard to see how we could operate a quality restaurant service, where we might have 60 to 80 covers arriving around 8pm, alongside a quality delivery service. The fact that over the past two days we have had a record number of bookings for tomorrow – 120 for lunch and 120 for dinner – shows that there is demand for the restaurant when we are allowed to open again."

Meanwhile, in Nottingham, Alex Bond of Michelin-starred Alchemilla said that a delivery of 16 saddles of hare and 40 of pigeons are not the type of ingredients suitable for a meal box, so he is opening the restaurant tonight (Monday) and Tuesday, when it is usually closed, to use up stock.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

"If we are still in lockdown through December we'll have to think again about getting the Alchemilla at Home back up and running, but this takes manpower and means taking people off furlough, " said Bond, "Wage costs are a massive part of our monthly outgoings and to do this we need to be guaranteed an income that will sustain that."

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