Coronavirus (COVID 19): UK foodservice operators back in business with new services

Nicola Knight
Senior Analyst - Food-To -Go

Date : 06 April 2020

Only 10 days since we reported that the majority of the UK’s restaurant and food-to-go chains were closing all operations, some have now re-opened their kitchens to launch new services.  

Although the logistics are complex, there are benefits to remaining operational in some way:

  • Offering services that support key workers and the vulnerable can boost staff morale, build ties with the local community and create a positive perception of the brand 
  • A return to normal trading may be some way off so the sooner new services are launched the longer operators will have to refine them - and they could provide a valuable financial safety net until customer confidence in eating out recovers
  • Invaluable links with suppliers can be maintained, providing a better basis for re-opening and recovery as restrictions are lifted
  • Services launched now don't have to be perfect - the public will be appreciative of services that make their lives easier at a difficult time, and more tolerant of initial teething problems as they understand businesses are having to react quickly - so this is good time to test and learn

As foodservice businesses start to come to terms with the challenges of managing staff, supply, finances and safety throughout the pandemic, we expect more to announce new initiatives.  

Let’s take a look at some of the latest ways operators are keeping kitchens open:

Delivering store cupboard essentials

  • Healthy food-to-go chain Leon is launching its ‘Feed Britain’ online food delivery platform tomorrow (7 April).  The service will offer meal kits, food produce and essentials, and has been created for three reasons:
  1. To make access to food easier
  2. Regenerate the food supply chain
  3. Support the NHS and other key workers (profits will be donated to the #FEEDNHS campaign)

The service will initially launch in London but will roll out across the UK in the coming weeks. A soft launch is currently taking place with Leon Club members.

  • Healthy food and juice brand Crussh has launched a home delivery service for food and drink packages. Customers can order a week’s supply of cold-press juices and booster shots as well as a juice and soup package via the company’s website for delivery within the M25. Crussh is also delivering cold-pressed juice to NHS workers in central London and continues to supply over 300 Sainsbury’s with a range of healthy food-to-go products.
  • Absurd Bird, which has 6 UK restaurants, has teamed up with delivery brand Kbox to deliver food boxes and essential supplies. The three Kbox Essentials boxes will last for up to 30 servings. Consumers can order Kbox Essentials from Absurd Bird via UberEats or the Kbox websites

Re-opening to support key workers

  • Burger King UK is the latest restaurant company to pledge free meals to frontline workers. It joins companies such as Bella Italia, Pizza Hut and Itsu, who are working with Deliveroo to deliver the meals in London and Manchester before expanding to other areas. More than 350,000 free meals have been donated so far. 

Helping fans cook restaurant dishes at home

  • French brasserie chain Cote has launched an “at home” delivery option which aims to “bring the best of our kitchen to your home”. The online shop will allow consumers to order main meals, sides, desserts, wine and items from its butchery.  The dishes serve one or two people, are ready to cook at home and can be frozen. Cote at Home is now taking orders for delivery from Thursday (9 April) within the M25, but nationwide deliveries will be available in the coming weeks. Cote’s 96 restaurants have been closed for two weeks.

Growth through dark kitchens

  • Greek street food operator The Athenian is planning to expand its presence outside London by opening a dark kitchen in Reading through Deliveroo Editions.  The brand opened its first delivery-only kitchen in Battersea in February and had planned to open a new food-to-go site in London Bridge, but this is now on hold.  In the meantime, the Reading kitchen should be up and running in a couple of weeks, with another London kitchen planned in a few months.

Taking the plunge into delivery

  • Following government advice that off-licences qualify as essential businesses, wine bar business Vagabond has reopened its Clapham-based site for takeaway and free local delivery.  If the trial is successful it may roll the service out to other sites.

For more on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • See our latest news and reports here
  • Discover how IGD is working with the food and consumer goods industry during coronavirus - visit our dedicated webpage
  • For last week's UK market update, click here