Thinking Outside the (At Home) Box

Thinking Outside the (At Home) Box

There’s no getting away from the fact we’ve all had a tough year but one industry that arguably pulled the shortest straw (paper, obvs), is hospitality. With Boris Johnson urging people to ‘stay home and save lives’ in March 2020, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars up and down the country were forced to close with little warning.

A turbulent 12 months followed but despite such a difficult year, we’ve seen first-hand the ingenuity and strength of the hospitality industry. From takeaway and meal kit pivoting, to launching totally new concepts, operators have been working tirelessly to secure their future in a post-pandemic world.

Pandemic pivoting

London based wine bar, Top Cuvée, became a shining example of ‘pandemic pivoting’. Fighting to stay alive, they quickly rebranded into ‘Shop Cuvée’, offering their wine, cocktails and later, meal kits, nationally. Whilst retaining their ‘neighbourhood’ and community feel, a clever use of attention-grabbing, hilarious social media content meant that they’ll now opening Shop Cuvée as a permanent fixture when they reopen the restaurant in May.

As many operators turned to takeaways, others looked how they could bring their restaurant into people’s homes with meal kits. The ingenious idea meant that people all over the country could experience their favourite restaurants in their own home; whether that be their local restaurant or enjoying menus from restaurants that they wouldn’t normally travel to.

Not just a money maker

It’s something BBC 2’s Great British Menu star, Stuart Collins and the team at Docket no.33 in Whitchurch turned to, to not only keep afloat, but keep their avid fans engaged.

Recognising that guests were missing their tasting menu whilst in lockdown, the team developed ‘Docket at Home’; a weekly-changing menu featuring much-loved dishes including Braised beef cheek with pickled green sauce, rainbow chard & puffed potatoes and Rhubarb & custard tart with pistachio praline, Champagne & rhubarb puree. Sold in boxes that guests simply ‘finish’ from the comfort of their own home, the menu has sold out every week since launch and so the team plans to continue to offer the meal kits even after reopening the restaurant.

And the proof is in the pudding with sales of deliveries and takeaways from the UK’s leading hospitality groups having tripled over the past 12 months, according to CGA. The Hospitality at Home Tracker indicated the combined value of delivery and takeaway in February 2021 was 317% more than in the same month in 2020. The volume of orders was 19.6 million—well over double the total of 9.1 million in February 2020.

The future?

The success can be seen across the board with 5-Michelin star holder, Chef Simon Rogan, witnessing unprecedented results from his ‘at home’ offer.  Named as the ‘best value Michelin starred takeaway meal kit in the UK’ from a survey carried out by kitchen manufacturer Kutchenhaus, sales have been so good that he’s now looking for a site to continue operations, employing new chefs to feed demand.

Chester’s authentic Italian restaurant, Da Noi, also experienced huge success with their ‘Tour of Italy’ offer; a culinary ‘journey’ through Italy with each menu focussing on a specific region. The resourceful idea educated guests on the breadth of Italy’s food culture, whilst answering cries for those missing Chef Valentina’s cooking.

But it wasn’t just an ‘at home’ offer the Chester favourite turned their hand to. They recently launched ‘In Strada’. The street food concept located outside the restaurant offers pasta dishes, desserts and real Italian coffee aiming to draw people back to the High Street and remind them what they’re missing before reopening in May.

Meal kits from the sky

The meal-kit model appears to be so successful that it’s now not just traditional restaurants who have turned to the idea. This month, British Airways launched a recipe box service delivering food from their first-class cabin to us on the ground. Whilst it’s unlikely this endeavour is to help stem lost profits, this quirky PR exercise appears to be a bid to keep frequent flyers engaged and act as a reminder that we’ll soon be in the air once again…

What could have been a completely bleak 12 months for the sector has in fact demonstrated how with a little imagination and creative strategy, the hospitality industry won’t be shut down, pandemic or no pandemic.

Have an ‘at home’ offer or idea you want to develop? From short-term recovery packages to full-blown strategic annual campaigns, we will help you prepare for life after lockdown. Just email or call 03330 153330.

There’s no time like the present…