The food and drink industry has been hit incredibly hard thanks to COVID-19, but amid the many restaurants and bars struggling to get back on their feet and for those that heartbreakingly will never return, there have been some lovely success stories to have developed out of these strange times.
As we’re all about the eating and drinking here at The Handbook, we wanted to celebrate those success stories from some of the brands that got us through lockdown. From the account director who turned his dream of a BBQ business into a roaring success to the lockdown liquor company that made Friday night Zoom calls a hell of a lot more fun, here are some of those success stories that continue to blossom even as things return to (nearly) normal.
Just weeks into lockdown and after spending more time at home with his family in the Home Counties, first-time entrepreneur AJ Mair thought up BBQINABOX. He’d previously been working as an account director at a communications agency so turning his hand to the food service industry was quite a departure.
You wouldn’t have thought it though. BBQINABOX has been a roaring success and it’s all thanks to AJ’s infectious energy (he hand delivered a sample to us at the beginning of lockdown and was utterly charming), a unique business idea and, as he puts it, a little “support of my family and friends.”
The boxes do what they say – customers are invited to build their own bespoke BBQ menu of meat, fish and veggies all pre-made with a bounty of spices, herbs and flavour, taking the fuss out of BBQ season and injecting it with a smack of flavour.
“Since launch we now cover the Home Counties and London, as well as offering food and drink experiences where we come in and cook,” AJ told us, “This allows me to be more personable with my customers seeing them enjoy the food, which is extremely rewarding. We’ve also launched ‘The Oven Box’ for those who don’t have a BBQ, or if the weather turns. With the sun back on the horizon I’m buzzing for the summer vibe ahead.”
AJ’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, in just a few short months the brand has been featured in the likes of The Evening Standard and GQ Magazine. Long let the success continue and BBQ season staying lit for as long as possible.
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Granted, we weren’t short of home delivery services during lockdown as practically every Tom, Dick and Harry turned their bar/restaurant/pop-up space into a smalltime Ocado shop. But then came Les Marché des Chefs.
The brand usually supply fresh produce for some of London’s top restaurants – think Ducasse at the Dorchester, Hide and Hélène Darroze – and as you’d expect, the produce is exceptional.
We're not saying Les Marché des Chefs weekly deliveries got us through lockdown but, well, they certainly helped.
As restaurants closed their doors, the team at LMDC started offering home cooks the same standard produce, delivered to the door in pre-made hampers. It was a knee jerk reaction to keep their heads above water in such testing times, but one that turned into a fully fledged business.
The brand has gone from strength to strength, adding to their weekly line up of goods on offer, launching a shiny new website and making it a secondary part of their business even after restaurants have began to reopen and their “day job” resumed.
We’re not saying it was the only thing that got us through lockdown but, well, it certainly helped and we can honestly say Les Marché des Chefs has changed the way we do our weekly shop.
A brand that was inspired by adding a little spark to all those Zoom calls we found ourselves having back in April has gone on to become one of the loveliest food and drink success stories of lockdown.
Enter, Lockdown Liquor & Co. – the name says it all really. It was founded by Natasha and Jack Durling who started delivering pre-made cocktails to the doorsteps of friends and neighbours during the peak of the pandemic.
That grew into producing premium pre-mixed cocktails crafted by expert mixologists, using the best quality ingredients in some of our favourite tipples, all packaged up in slick branding.
They are now a fully fledged drinks delivery company, stocking our at-home bars the easiest way possible and giving something back by donating to NHS Charities Together too.
If you haven’t spotted them on your Instagram feed yet (where have you been?), check them out. We can’t recommend the Picante enough.
Who knew that back in early March supermarket chat would be so big. From low loo roll stocks to forced face coverings and queues bigger than the Selfridge’s Boxing Day Sale, something we’d never really thought about became all we were talking about.
Chris D’Sylva, owner of the iconic Notting Hill Fish Shop, took this as a business opportunity opening second business to his West London fishmongers and opened the Supermarket of Dreams.
Recognising the importance of neighbourhood convenience before lockdown hit, he changed his business status to supermarket to avoid closures.
From here he joined forces with other independents to bring locals the finest produce to make the turbulent time a little more bearable and a lot more convenient, joining luxury butchers H.G Walter, greengrocers Natoora, local bakery Hedone and cheesemonger Neals Yard Dairy.
D’Sylva’s increased his sales by 400% and was welcoming an average of 374 customers per day, extending his offering to DIY restaurant kits from the likes of Patty&Bun and Padella to the finest coffee from AllPress and produce from some of London’s top foodie names such as Ottolenghi and Skye Gyngell.
From what seemed a lockdown nightmare, D’Sylva really did build a supermarket of dreams.