Now, you don’t need us to spell out the gravity of the situation right now. These are extremely challenging times for our industry, for our businesses and for our families.

As it stands the government have provided limited support for our industry.

At NCASS we are working tirelessly to do what we can to get this increased as well as helping members in their individual circumstances and we’ll continue to do this with every ounce of energy we’ve got.

For many of us it might feel like the sky is falling in, right? That’s 100% understandable. However, it’s important to remember that there will come a time when this will be over, it will end – but right now we need to get through this.

The question you must ask and work out is…. How?

Can you bunker down, cut costs and hibernate until this is all over?

Or

Do you have to work, to find a way to earn money? There are some companies looking for workers right now – supermarkets, farms & delivery companies etc.

Or

Do you still want to operate your business and if so, can you do it safely to not endanger your own life and the lives of others?

Here are some facts:

  • People still need food.
  • You are a professional caterer.
  • The Government has said that those that work in “food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods” are considered Key Workers. source
  • Food takeaways and deliveries have continued to operate in many other countries during extended lockdowns.
  • Demand for takeaways and deliveries in these countries has gone up significantly.

That means there are opportunities.

Now is the time to think outside the box, never has it been more important to be bold and inventive.

Here’s 7 things to consider:

1. Who needs food in your local area?

Who out there is wanting or needing cooked food right now? Here’s 3 different places.

  • Establishments who can’t run their kitchens

Schools, care homes and emergency services are all under strain and could suffer from staff shortages for their kitchens. Can you offer a catering service to them right now? If you’re available, get on the phone and find out.

  • Those who are self-isolating

Right now, there are many people self-isolating in their homes – the over 70’s, the ‘at risk and vulnerable’ and the sick. Some of these will want or may need to have cooked food delivered – could you help with that?

  • Those who want a treat

In difficult times people still need ‘treats.’ After a tough week (and lets be honest it feels like the coming weeks are sure to get tougher) it’s a very common thing to enjoy a nice meal in the form of a takeaway. Not everyone will be closing their purse strings and people will still need this coping mechanism or treat. Good tasty food makes you feel better.

2. What food do people want to buy (and what can you supply?)

Is a £10 high end burger still relevant now? The answer might be yes but possibly not – it depends on who you’re targeting and what they’re willing to pay.

The market will be changing – is there an opportunity to supply well balanced cooked meals to those in self isolation? There are plenty of sons and daughters who live around the country and are worried about ensuring that their moms, dads, grandmas and grandads are well fed and would pay for a good healthy meal to be delivered.

Could you supply that?

Remember though that actually being able to get the ingredients is also important to consider. What can you get hold of? Many suppliers have reduced their product range significantly in order to ensure supplies.

And there’s no point doing all of this if you’re not going to make money (unless you’re doing it for charitable causes of course) so be careful of your costs. What low cost options could you provide that there is demand for?

3. Where are you going to operate from and when?

You need to operate your catering business but from where? There are no shortages of opportunities during this period – you just need to find them.

  • The Government has recently announced that restaurants and pubs are now able to operate as takeaways as part of the Coronavirus response. Can you work with others on their property or borrow their kitchen?
  • Can you trade from your own property?
  • Can you operate on a pub car park / private land?
  • Can you operate in a business park?

Remember though that you still need to trade legally. Here are the fundamentals:

 a. If you trade on public land you need a street trading license.
 b. If you operate on private land you need: 

  • Permission from the landowner.
  • Planning permission if you are going to be there for longer than 28 days.
  • You need to inform your insurance of any fundamental changes to your business.

4. How do people place orders?

Customers need to be able to purchase from you – ideally via card and not face to face – how are they going to do it?

You might get on the big three apps – Just Eat, Deliveroo or Uber Eats. These are great at being an easy solution but be aware they charge big fees (20-35% of takings + VAT) and they currently have a big back log of orders so getting on might take some time.

Can you take orders on the phone? On social media? Via your website? Some members are offering delivery services of either cooked food or fruit and veg from their own suppliers and are taking orders for next day deliveries via email with payment via their card machine or bank transfer!

If you want to have an online ordering service for delivery or takeaway we have hooked up with 2 great online ordering systems with great deals for members that will give you an online ordering presence. Find out more here.

5. How are you going to fulfil orders?

  • Can you allow collections?
  • What about a drive through solution?
  • Can you deliver?
  • If you are doing deliveries will you do these yourself or will you get these done by another supplier?

It’s worth checking out Stuart.com who are a food delivery company (think an Uber for food) and do the deliveries for Just Eat. They operate in 30 towns & cities around the UK and charge £5.40 for deliveries of up to 1.5 miles and £6.90 for 1.5 miles to 2.5 miles. It’s free and easy to get started – download the Stuart app, register and get going.

Remember if you are going to do deliveries yourself or with your own staff you need to ensure that you have the right insurance cover.

6. Are you operating Safely & Legally?

Safety is more important than ever for customers right now. They just will not buy from you (and rightly so) if they have any suspicions that they might be at risk – therefore you need to ensure you are operating safely and legally, including:

a. Covid 19 Compliance – it’s absolutely critically important that you ensure you are not aiding the spread of this disease – both for your sake and for others, so make sure you are doing everything necessary to ensure you don’t catch it. We’ve developed some resources to help you here.
b. Risk Assessments – Food, Fire, Health & Safety for all your food and equipment.
c. Safety Training – are you staff food safety trained? Make sure you display this.
d. Temperature Recording.
e. Allergen requirements.
f. Insurances.

NCASS can help you out with all these things – just give us a ring on 0300 124 6866.

7. How are you going to let people know and get orders coming in?

People need to know about your operations, if they don’t, they can’t order. You have to get the word out there and keep telling them.

Some ideas:

  •  Social media – Could you get on social media channels with details of the food you’re creating and how they can order? Get good pictures of your food, share your story, get your friends and family out there to spread the word. Local people want to support local businesses. There are plenty of videos on the internet about how to use social media for restaurants on YouTube like here – watch them and think about how you can apply them to your business.
  •  Flyers / leaflets – Could you create some leaflets with details about what you’re doing and email to organisations who may want or need your services right now.
  • Phone calls – Who can you call? Who can you tell? Let everyone know.

    Remember to shout about the measures that you are taking to ensure that you’re operating safely and legally.

If you’re an NCASS member shout about that!

If marketing isn’t your strength, then who do you know that could help you with these ideas and implementation?

This is unprecedented. Never has the world been faced with times like this. The country and our industry will undeniably change for the foreseeable future.

You must adapt! You’ve got our support. We’re behind you.

Tough times never last but tough people do.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments & suggestions of how you’re adapting and keeping business afloat during these very challenging times – please email them to dan@ncass.org.uk and we can share these round to others.