Waiter cleaning tables

The food industry in lockdown

How the hospitality industry has adapted to COVID-19 and what the future looks like post-lockdown.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll on the food industry as lockdown restrictions weighed heavily and consumer habits having been altered, changing the landscape of the hospitality sector as we know it.

In the initial stages of lockdown most, if not all, restaurants, cafes and drive throughs were closed until further notice. As restrictions began easing, many started offering take-aways, adapting to the needs of consumers while adhering to government guidelines.

Food is an intrinsic part of our daily lives, from simply eating to nourish our bodies to looking forward to a lunch with friends or a dinner comprised of our favourite dishes. Some have gone months without visiting restaurants and cafés and as lockdown has lifted, reopening of the hospitality sector is developing imminently.

The sector is adapting to the current climate with restaurants, cafes and pubs enforcing social distancing measures and limited seating capacity to ensure the long-awaited return to favourite food spots is enjoyable but also safe. Outdoor dining is also increasing in popularity and has proven to be a great alternative to the usual dining in experience.

Businesses have altered in innovate ways, as demonstrated by Pizza Pilgrims who began selling frying pan pizza kits on Deliveroo. By offering kits that provide everything customers need to make two pizzas at home added to their order, people have the option to occupy free time and have fun with pizza making.

Another example is The Crosstown Collective, which was formed by the founders of Crosstown Doughnuts, Millers Bespoke Bakery and The Estate Dairy. The Collective provide boxes full of different food products from the three different shops, to the general public. This initiative not only offers high quality produce to the public who may not be able to source for themselves due to the current restrictions, but also supports the three independent businesses in these challenging times.

Food industry figures across the UK have published a ‘path to recovery’ for the industry post-COVID, with proposals endorsed by over 30 UK food and drink organisations, outlining steps the government and industry can take to future proof the sector.

Michael Bell, Executive Director of the NI Food and Drink Association and co-ordinator of the report said: “COVID-19 has challenged the UK food and drink industry in a once in a generation way. Food manufacturers have been working harder than ever to ensure that the nation is fed – with companies having to adapt to an evolving situation at a rapid pace, responding to changes in demand and implementing social distancing measures. Within a short period of time, firms have reengineered and reimagined processes, requiring a significant level of investment. Put simply, the industry has demonstrated both its ingenuity and its necessity in these unprecedented times.”