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On-trade continues to explore alternative paths

Published:  23 March, 2020

Following the government’s shut down of all but takeaway services across the UK restaurant, bar and pub sectors, operators are continuing to explore new avenues to generate revenue or simply help their community while the coronavirus (Covid-19) spread advances.

The business resets are happening fast, as owners do what they can with the resources already available to them, with an overlay of innovative thinking.

And while this may soon become a moot point, as MPs debate today the implementation of stricter isolation measures, such adaptations reveal the resilience and imagination shown by our ever diverse on-trade.

Approach the frontage of L’Atelier du Vin in Brighton’s Seven Dials neighbourhood today, and wines, which this hybrid wine bar is still permitted to sell off-sales, are joined by fresh, locally sourced eggs and vegetables, tins of beans, even loo rolls, and much besides.

Elsewhere, home deliveries, kerbside pick ups, online cocktail classes, virtual wine tastings and, for those with no off-sales licence, collaboration with local indie merchants to deliver meals and wine, are all part of the emerging mix.

And, despite businesses stressing the lengths they are going to, to ensure that both staff and customers are kept distanced and safe, some humour is also being allowed, to help keep sprits up.

Kentish Town and Camden dive bar Ladies & Gentleman is delivering a range of ‘Quarantinis’ cocktails, along with Ayurvedic juices, to households where people are isolating.

Cocktails also feature, in online format, with the Novikov bar and restaurant group in East Anglia, where in addition to kerbside pick up and home delivery, it’s Lounge Bar is launching a series on InstaTV, with bartender Gianfranco Lozzi teaching people how to make cocktails at home.

On a more serious note, the company is taking produce from the garden that supplies all of its restaurants and donating to a charity that provides meals for homeless and vulnerable people in the Bury St Edmunds area.

The Qoot group in London, with outlets such as plant-based by Chloe and The Lebanese Bakery, is utilising its resources and offering complimentary meals to all school children currently eligible to free meals, but unable take those at schools. These take the form of lunchboxes available for collection from the restaurants.

“Covid-19 is an existential threat to the UK’s most vulnerable families, if we at Qoot can go some way in relieving that threat then at least there will be some positive to rise from this tragic time for the hospitality industry and our nation as a whole,” said Qoot’s chief operating officer, Simon Wright.

With the current situation continuing to develop at speed, and a further announcement on businesses and personal restrictions widely expected from the steps of Downing Street at the PM briefing later today, similar on-trade initiatives springing up around the UK may have to halt soon.

It is heartening, though, in the face of such a grim and all-encompassing crisis, to see the calibre and resourcefulness of the UK on-trade.