We have just published a new guide for NCASS members to support them in changing their business model to delivery, collection or takeaway. 

Since lockdown measures were first introduced back in March, independent food business across the UK have had to take a reactive approach to the crisis in order to stay afloat. We’ve heard from many of our members who have adapted their business to a delivery, takeaway or click & collect service and have even caught up with a few in Episodes #002 and #005 of our NCASS Live webinar series.

In this article, we hear from NCASS members who have changed their business models to delivery.

For some, including Matt from Goody Gujariti, the need to re-evaluate how his business can survive the pandemic has enabled the “opportunity to see our business in a whole new light,” whether that be ways in which to help vulnerable members of the community, feed the NHS, or simply find ways of delivering a ‘treat’ to people struggling to cope with the demands that Covid-19 is placing on their day-to-day lives.

“A lot of them are just glad to have a night off cooking. It’s the new going out to eat, having something brought to the house,” said Richard from Dick’s Smokehouse.” He and business partner, Alicia, have been travelling the width and breadth of the Birmingham and North Worcestershire area on a weekly basis with their meat platter trays; complete with full instructions on how to re-heat the food and placed in disposable trays (meaning no washing up), the home deliveries have enabled the duo to reach a new customer base during lockdown.

Alicia, added: “We’re taking on about 300 new followers on Instagram a week at the moment so it’s definitely word of mouth that has been, other than social media, our biggest platform of marketing. We’re getting a different type of clientele really. About 30% now each week are new customers.”

Staying in the spotlight

Darren – founder of Boxpark based burger joint, Nanny Bill’s – has also taken full advantage of a unique delivery model in the form of their DIY burger kits. Following government advice to close restaurants, the team now offer weekly deliveries to avid burger lovers craving an authentic Nanny Bill’s experience in the form of two options – the Bacon Double Cheese and the Hot Box kit.

Darren commented: “Launching home delivery kits has been a challenge due to the logistics of it all, (they currently operate home deliveries across London, Essex and Hertfordshire) however, it’s kept me busy enough to generate a little income as well as keeping me occupied. More importantly, it’s keeping the brand alive in these uncertain times.”

Branding is everything to a business who’s been a regular trader at some of London’s biggest and busiest street food markets since its launch in a vintage food truck in 2015. The requirement to “stay in the mind” of loyal customers is half the battle when the hospitality industry has no clear guidance on when doors could potentially be reopened to restaurants, pubs and food markets. The decision of many food businesses to host live cooking demonstrations, competitions and live chats enables them to keep some sort of profile going on social media when trading has all but ceased.

Ant from Yo Dough Brum had been offering deliveries on his cookie dough products pre-Covid, but realised that the lack of trading that presented itself during Covid provided an opportunity to revamp his website and “get the branding and everything to do with the packaging on point.” Within two days of trade being stopped for Yo Dough, Ant had got his website up and running and ready to take orders for delivery. He said of the process: “I know a few traders who’ve had to switch their products slightly just to get them through this period so it’s keeping all your options open. Don’t be too precious with what you were known for before if you can easily adapt and shift on to something else. It’s worth exploring avenues.”

Troy, owner of Juici Jerk delivers to customers via Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat from his base in Tooting. Covid has provided the opportunity for him and brother Jarrell to deliver fresh cooked meals to NHS staff in their community, and the duo even celebrated their “busiest ever day on all apps” recently – a feat that surely would have taken longer to achieve had it not been for people craving a treat during lockdown. They thanked customers for their continued support by giving away free mac & cheese with every order placed the next day. The Juici team have been avid users of their social media channels throughout the pandemic and are currently hiring kitchen staff for their restaurant, clearly representative of the surge in demand from members of the public for fresh food during the Covid outbreak.

Troy spoke of the benefits that delivery has had in keeping his business going: “We have always had a delivery service as part of our business model so we are very fortunate that this has now allowed us to stay afloat amidst us losing all our private catering bookings for 2020.

“It is quite a bittersweet feeling, but we are grateful we are able to stay open and do our part.”

Takeaways from Covid

The service food businesses are delivering to their local communities is not going unnoticed either. The team at Beki’s Brownies turned up to a home with a hand painted rainbow drawing on the door from a child saying “Thanks Beki’s Brownies,” back at the end of April, just as they had successfully completed delivery of over 2,000 brownies across the West Midlands. The team shared their delight via social media with the caption:

“When Covid19 kicked off and lockdown measures were put in place, I honestly didn’t think we would survive. Like many other small businesses, the worry of losing everything we have worked so hard for over the last four and a half years was unbearable.

“We had to adapt, quickly! Over the last 4 weeks we have baked and hand delivered to your doorstep (at a safe distance following government guidelines) over 2,000 brownies. It has been hard work, but my God had it been worth it. Knowing that these boxes of happiness brighten your day makes us so happy.”

Despite the fact that many food businesses have pivoted to delivery in order to sail through the Covid storm, there’s no doubt that some of the adjustments they’ve made to their business will be upheld once normal life resumes. Richard from Dick’s Smokehouse, said: “Offering a delivery service has allowed us to re-examine how we can stay operational during the slower, winter months.”

The Fat Snags team are another regular trader who have found a way to ride the storm and make the move from street to sofa deliveries, with owner Richard, stating: “Offering ready-made delivery meals during Covid-19 has not only helped with cash flow, I think it has saved the business from extinction. 

“Changing the business from a street food outfit to a high quality ‘meals on wheels’ operation was an easy decision to make at the beginning of this; people couldn’t get out of their houses and cooked hotdogs don’t travel well!

“This change in direction enabled us to not only survive during the lockdown, but also expand the business. After seeing a Work Opp on the NCASS website, we got in touch with the Charity Meals for the NHS and are now supplying our local hospitals three times a week with the same high-quality food, but in easy cook microwavable packaging. It’s gone from a weekend business, to a 7-days a week business.

“We are now starting to change things up again, and we are also supplying cook at home hotdog kits so people can recreate the street food experience at home. If, and when, things get back to how they were and we are back on the street, I think we will definitely keep a delivery option going as it has opened us up to a whole new audience.”

Moving into delivery

Making the move into delivery has already enabled many food businesses to stay afloat and we want as many of you as possible to be able to work safely through Covid-19 too, which is why we have produced a guide to working though Covid-19 as a delivery, collection or takeaway service.

We take you through what you need to know; from Food Safety Management to Licensing, packaging, labelling and more – this is the how to guide if you are looking to expand or change the way you trade. It is designed to help you assess your current facilities and systems so that you can decide if “pivoting” your business to a takeaway and/or delivery service is for you and work through the changes you will need to make to keep within the law.

Please take the opportunity to download our new guide, fill in all the necessary documents within appendix 2; Covid-19 Controls (the updated version of the Covid-19 Compliancy Pack) complete with useful resources and upload them to your members area. We also caught up with Senior EHO, Jenny Morris MBE, to go through the guidance document in Episode #006 of NCASS Live, which you can find here.

NCASS Member?

To discuss any of the above points or if you have any questions, please contact your NCASS Account Manager on 0300 124 6866 Monday -Thursday 9-5:30pm and Friday 9am – 5pm.