Manchester has a vibrant and interesting food scene, which has developed greatly in recent years. But, like with many cities and countries around the world, COVID-19 and its consequential lockdowns have heavily impacted the local hospitality industry. The adjustment hasn’t been easy but Manchester has shown the power of community, particularly within the food sector.

Here, we look at the Manchester food industry’s response to COVID-19 across 2020, some of the schemes and ways food businesses have helped one another, and what will be needed to get the city back on its feet in 2021.

Manchester Food Sector’s Reaction To COVID-19

As the pandemic and lockdowns unfolded across the UK, there were national responses from the Government and local responses from councils and individuals. Let’s look at what Manchester’s response was on a local level.

#PayItForward – March 2020

Early in the year, at the start of the pandemic in the UK, Roland Dransfield, a Manchester PR and communications agency, joined forces with Sacha Lord, the Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Advisor, along with leaders in the hospitality sector to launch the #PayItForward campaign.

This campaign looked to draw support for Manchester restaurants by encouraging the public to buy discounted vouchers, which could then be redeemed once the first lockdown was lifted in May. This was hoped to give a lifeline to participating restaurants and offer buyers something to look forward to. As the pandemic has evolved, with a second lockdown in late 2020, the campaign has continued. Restaurants are still able to sign up to participate into 2021.

As part of the #PayItForward campaign, £1 from each voucher purchased was donated to Hospitality Action, a charity that offers help to those within the hospitality sector. Hospitality Action works with hotels, bars, pubs, cafes, along with restaurants, assisting those dealing with illnesses, mental health issues, financial difficulties and more.

Local Organisations & Businesses Delivered Meals & Easter Eggs – April 2020

Food businesses and local hospitality organisations came together in a number of ways to support those in need during COVID-19 in April, both before and after the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

A collective of local organisations, such as Open Kitchen, Fareshare and The Bread and Butter Thing, along with the Trussell Trust, mobilised to provide food for those who were self-isolating in response to the pandemic. Help for vulnerable groups was a mammoth task and the City Council assisted by redeploying staff members to coordinate some 1,000 deliveries to those in need.

As this drive coincided with Easter in the UK, Mars Wrigley donated 65,000 Easter Eggs for distribution with food packages, as gifts for children of key workers and NHS staff.

Vermillion, an Indian restaurant in North Manchester, offered free deliveries of food to medics and support staff at North Manchester General Hospital. Alpha LSG, an in-flight catering company, similarly donated 25,000 airline meals (that were no longer needed with flights reduced or cancelled) to Manchester families in need.

Distilleries Stopped Brewing Booze, Instead Bottling Sanitiser – April 2020

An unprecedented need for hand sanitizer, coupled with the inability to continue normal manufacturing of alcohol, led a number of local distilleries to switch their produce from artisan gins to sanitiser. Many brands took part, including Didsbury Gin, Four Sisters, and Forest Distillery.

What’s Next For Manchester’s Hospitality Sector?

COVID-19 presents an unprecedented situation for modern businesses, one that seems to be changing on a daily and monthly basis. Many hotel and food sector businesses had serious concerns following the long year of lockdowns about their ability to survive into 2021. This very real and genuine concern, shared around the country, has been met by plans for ongoing support by Manchester’s tourism and hospitality leaders.

Manchester Wanted A Roadmap, Not A Tier System

The tier system that was implemented before the second UK lockdown and later revised caused much concern in Manchester as the high level given to the area was seen to deal a significant blow to local businesses. The need for a roadmap to end the pandemic was clear, however, until there was a vaccine or significant reductions in cases numbers, the end seemed far away and local businesses were unlikely to survive the interim. Nevertheless, plans were being made for recovery.

Local Organisations Are Building A Support & Recovery Plan

The Tourism Industry Emergency Response (TIER) group comprises local authorities and organisations, along with relevant government departments, and they have been working throughout the pandemic to address the concerns of the tourism and hospitality sector.

Leading voices from across culture, food, hotels, retail, conferencing and more, have worked together to outline the core areas of concern and help shape plans on a local level for recovery post-COVID-19. Marketing Manchester, the promotion organisation for Greater Manchester, worked with TIER to outline areas of concern for the Manchester area, lobbying for Government support and raising the concerns of the sector in Manchester.

Though it is currently too early to move into recovery, Marketing Manchester and TIER have outlined the areas of focus for when the time comes, namely:

  • rebuilding consumer confidence
  • rebuilding international profile and connectivity
  • restoring business visits and events

This is all in the future, but Manchester businesses should be encouraged by the fact that recovery plans are already being put together, aiming to get the hospitality sector thriving again as soon as possible.

The Coronavirus Vaccine Arrives, Offering Hope

December 2020 finally saw the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being used in the UK and in Greater Manchester. The UK’s first approved vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, began to be administered in early December. This offers a lifeline of hope to businesses that the New Year will see significant progress reducing the need for more lockdowns and the gradual removal of the tier system. Then the work of bringing back hospitality and tourism businesses can begin.

Foodstars’ New Manchester Location

Food delivery continues to thrive during the pandemic and is a valuable and practical way for businesses to continue to serve customers. Foodstars’ new North England location is in Manchester and includes ready-to-move-into kitchens, which make it very easy for food businesses to pivot into delivery during the pandemic. Get in touch to find out more about our offerings.

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