IN a rapidly changing coronavirus climate the Prime Minister has urged us all to avoid social activity, including pubs, clubs, theatres, large gatherings. It has left the hospitality industry. already reeling, in state of terminal desperation. The deluge of no-shows it’s already suffering is the public panic equivalent of supermarkets stripped of loo rolls.
Witness the sudden postponement of the Northern Restaurant Bar trade show, where some kind of industry response might have been mustered.
Now it’s left to every small operator to fight for survival in the absence of customers through the blanket measures to control the pandemic. Jobs are at immediate risk but if a lockdown continues into the summer then our whole restaurant scene might never recover.
Individual operations are already taken steps to adapt to the crisis. Gary Usher’s Elite Bistros group, that includes Kala and Hispi, is shutting on Mondays and Tuesdays for the foreseeable future, while Elnecot in Ancoats is reducing the menu to keep ordering and waste to a minimum while offering some discounts.
Most radical step, though, belongs to The Creameries in Chorlton, a venture built on crowdfunding and a loyal foodie fanbase. It has announced it is closing from today and launching a collection and local delivery service for its sourdough bread, artisanal cheese, cakes and natural wine.
Announcing this on Facebook chef/co-owner Mary-Ellen McTague said: "A restaurant isn’t really a restaurant unless it’s a full of people. The whole point of restaurants is to bring people together over a shared love of food, wine and good times. In these current, particularly bad times, we simply cannot risk continuing to share our space."
The new service is due to begin on Wednesday, March 18, payment and delivery procedures to be announced. At lunchtime, there will be soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes, while later in the day there would be affordable home-cooked meals “plus some luxury meals (and wine) for those who would like a treat”.
The rest of the post is frank about their dilemma, which must be mirrored at hundreds of other small players: "Our weekly overheads, without stock, total just under £7k. Food, drinks and other supplies is another £3-4K on top of this," she wrote.
"It’s always been a struggle to make ends meet - that’s restaurants for you. As an economic model they are utter bull**** and exist only as a labour of love.
“So whilst there is not a chance in hell we will bring in enough money doing deliveries / collections, whatever little bits of cash we keep coming in will help the tiny part of the world we occupy to keep on ticking over.
The Creameries on Wilbraham Road will also be working with Open Kitchen Manchester to prepare and distribute meals, veg boxes and supplies for the vulnerable self-isolating, and as a drop off point for donations for Humans Mcr.
“This is really, really s****y for a lot of people,… if you are worried about how you will survive the next few months, let’s share resources and ideas, and help each other through. Please get in touch if you are desperately worried. We're here."