Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest responses from UK food-to-go and out-of-home operators

Nicola Knight
Senior Analyst - Food-To -Go

Date : 01 April 2020

A round-up of the latest developments from UK food-to-go and out-of-home operators this week.

Switching channels

  • A national initiative to enable pubs to trade as food shops offering essential items such as bread, eggs and milk has been set up. is a partnership between Brakes, Coca-Cola European Partners and Use Your Local, and is powered by ecommerce trading platform StarStock. Admiral Taverns, Greene King Pub Partners and St Austell Brewery will offer the service to their c2,000 pubs, and wholesaler Brakes will also open it up to the 15,000-plus pubs it supplies. The venture is being run as non-profit, with surplus revenue donated to the NHS.
  • Healthy food-to-go operator Farmer J has launched a delivery service called The Farmers Market from its King William Street site. The service offers British farm groceries, homemade sauces and other essentials in ‘farm boxes’ delivered next day to most of London

Supporting key workers and vulnerable groups

  • The #FEEDTHENHS campaign lead by food-to-go chain Leon is halfway to its £1m target in the first few days. Supported by actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas, the campaign aims to supply 6,000 meals a day to NHS front-line staff. Wasabi, Tortilla, Peach Pubs, Rosa’s Thai, Hop, Pizza Pilgrims, Franco Manca, Farmer J, Tossed, Hache, Abokado, Dishoom and Nusa Kitchen joined Leon in the not-for-profit initiative which launched on 27 March.
  • Japanese food-to-go operator Itsu has re-opened two central London sites to produce meals for London hospitals. It will focus on making one dish – veggie gyoza udon – to keep things simple and effective whilst maintaining social distancing guidance in its kitchens. The food will be delivered free of charge and founder Julian Metcalf has signed up as a volunteer delivery driver. The company is also paying for taxis to enable all staff to go to and from work safely.
  • City Harvest, a charity that distributes surplus food in London, has said it has been receiving 20 tonnes of food a day since 17th March (normally it receives 35 tonnes a week). City Harvest’s main suppliers are Innocent, Bookers and Fruitful Office but restaurant companies have been a major source of increased donations including McDonald’s, Nando’s, Hawksmoor, Honest Burgers, Bone Daddies and Gail’s. A number of furloughed restaurant staff have joined as volunteers.

Delivery: a route to success?

  • Domino's Pizza is one of the few major UK fast food chains still delivering. It says trading in the UK and Ireland in January, February and the first two weeks of March was in line with expectations. LFL sales growth has been driven by increases in items per order and therefore higher overall order value, arising from both the shift from collection to delivery as well as a change in consumer purchasing behaviour. Domino’s has adapted its model rapidly to deal with the covid-19 pandemic. ‘Already high’ hygiene standards have been strengthened and the company has now moved entirely to contact-free delivery. The supply chain is working well, and the company is looking to recruit store colleagues and delivery drivers to cope with higher demand.
  • Restaurant booking platform OpenTable has partnered with third party providers to offer delivery options in the UK, Australia, Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It follows the introduction of a delivery feature with UberEats and other partners in the US and Canada in 2019. In the UK, the company will work with Deliveroo and UberEats to enable diners to select and order a meal from a restaurant on the OpenTable platform and have it delivered direct. The launch will see more than 3,000 restaurants offer delivery through OpenTable.

Maintaining brand relevancy during closure

  • McDonald’s is looking at how it can start serving again as social distancing measures are relaxed. It has asked UK customers to choose which burgers they want back on the menu when its stores reopen. In its latest email newsletter, McDonald’s also said it was also working on a new website to give families some “Happy Meal magic at home”. The company has temporarily closed all 1,350 branches in the UK.
  • Despite restaurant closures, UK consumers can still get their favourite restaurant meal – in a crisp! Snacks company Walkers has partnered with five restaurant groups for a new crisp range. The six Taste Icons flavours have been inspired by dishes at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas, Nando’s, PizzaExpress and YO! The flavours are GBK’s classic cheeseburger, Las Iguanas’ chilli con carne, Nando’s peri-peri chicken, PizzaExpress’ American hot and margherita, and YO!’s katsu curry. Each pack also comes with a two-for-one restaurant meal voucher with the redemption deadline postponed until December.

Well-known brands enter administration

  • Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s has entered administration. The company said challenging trading conditions, further worsened by the coronavirus outbreak, led to its collapse. The company has 73 restaurants across the UK and Ireland. Mexican fast casual chain Benito's Hat has also entered administration, following The Restaurant Group-owned chain Chiquito's similar announcement last week.

For more on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Latest news and reports click here
  • How IGD is working with the food and consumer goods industry during coronavirus - visit our dedicated webpage
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