London’s restaurant industry has always been there for me. When I have a birthday or celebration, when I want to commiserate, to treat someone or seek advice; I’ve had business ideas from waiters and life advice from chefs. From new jobs to relationships, successes and failures. Restaurants have always been there for us, and now we have to be there for them.
Lockdown’s starting to drag. For most of us the end is, encouragingly, nigh. But as we start the national conversation about how and when to shuffle back toward ‘normal’, the restaurant industry looks set to remain at the back of the queue along with your granny and Virgin Atlantic. But there are things we can do to help; here are some.
Take Out To Give Back
Most of us don’t just have a favourite restaurant, we’ve got a favourite table. Mine’s the Dining Room at The Groucho, the booth in the far back left. I’ll be sat there the moment it’s open again. But if we can’t go to our favourite restaurant, let it come to you. On a moped.
If an evening in the dimly lit luxury of Benares is what you’re craving then have you tried Benares At Home? I adore Burger & Lobster, and while nothing can beat a booth at Threadneedle Street or a table in on Clarge’s Street a close second comes an evening at home chomping through one of their freshly Deliveroo’d Nebraskan burgers or Atalantic Lobsters.
A great way to support your favourite restaurant is to order takeaway. It’s a lifeline the restaurant may likely need.
If you’re lucky enough to be employed on full salary then you’re probably saving a tidy sum on all the socialising you used to do. Rather than spend it all on Amazon deliveries perhaps make room for a regular date night delivery. It’ll beat your stockpiled pasta.
To paraphrase Vera Lynn, ‘we’ll eat again, some sunny day!’ And when we do, I’ll be paying with vouchers. Many restaurants have had their principle source of cash cut off overnight, but they’ve still got bills to pay. One effective way is to buy vouchers, and it’s mutually beneficial.
Vouchers are ideal because they give the restaurant money up-front, and in return you can get some pretty sweet deals that you can cash in at a future date of your choosing (I appreciate you’re probably au fait with the concept of vouchers).
Also, it’s nice to have something to look forward to, and seeing future tickets for a slap-up dinner magnetted to the fridge every time you go to make a cup of tea will only make the anticipation sweeter!
If you’ve some spare coin then there are probably people in the hospitality industry who need it more than you. A number of funds exist to help those worst affected as companies lay off workers.
You can donate via organisations like Hospitality Action who make one-off awards for workers in difficulty, or support campaigns like The Drinks Trust, helping workers in the drinks industry who are in trouble.
Support Chefs Digitally
Chefs work incredibly hard to rise to the top of their profession, and for the odd Jamie Oliver superstar there are dozens more moving heaven-and-earth to make ends meet and right now their livelihoods are at risk.
So support them, send an email or social media them some support. @ your favourite chef, buy their latest book on Amazon and leave a nice review, just stuff to be, y’know, nice.
Go Buy The Book
A cookbook isn’t just for Christmas. If your mum has an entire shelf dedicated to Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith (depending on the vintage), then the chances are that they were last minute gift purchases. It’s five minutes to closing time on Christmas Eve and you see How To Cook A Six Course Meal In 17 Seconds, and it doesn’t matter that you’ve bought mum a Jamie tome for the last five years in a row, just grab it and go.
Well now’s the time to get a chef or restaurant’s cookbook for the right reasons. Recreate your favourite dish, support the chefs you admire, and if nothing else you’ll have some mouth-watering pictures to enjoy until lockdown ends!
Buy The Tote!
Who doesn’t love a bit of merch? Not only is a tote bag sporting your favourite restaurant’s brand a great moving advertisement (provided it can be read at a two-metre distance!), it’s also ideal for stuffing all your shopping into and doing your bit for the environment.
From bags to coffee cups to useful kitchen accessories, restaurants are often flogging the stuff and not only is it a helpful revenue stream for them, but a great way to spruce up your tote bag collection!
Keep them informed
Many of our favourite restaurants may actually be small, local restaurants where English is not a first language. The chancellor has announced a raft of measures to help the hospitality industry, it’s likely more will follow as we look toward next steps out of lockdown.
If there are grants on offer, rates relief or future payroll help then it’s important that this is communicated to them. If you’re on friendly terms, maybe mention them to restauranteurs who might have missed such opportunities.
This isn’t the new normal, and once we’re through life will still carry on largely as before, and that includes Christmas. Perhaps you’re the person who books the office Christmas venue, in which case most restaurants start taking Christmas bookings incredibly early, and so perhaps now is the time to lock that in at your favourite restaurant?
Or perhaps you’ve a birthday in August or September, when current models suggest that the country will be up-and-running again, get on the phone and book ahead.
Leave A Review
Online reviews are incredibly valuable to the hospitality industry. Potential diners will invariably check out reviews before they hit a new restaurant, whether it’s hearing what Jay Rainer or Giles Coren (or The Handbook) think to going onto sites like Trip Advisor or Google and scrolling through the comments.
If there’s a restaurant that you love or there’s a meal that stands out then make sure that they, and the world, knows about it by popping onto Google and saying so. It won’t hurt, but it may really help.
We originally wrote this on 19th March, how much the world has changed! We’re constantly updating and adding to important pieces like this, so if you have any brainwaves or ways we can help the restaurant industry please do get in touch on [email protected]