Food lovers across the UK have had a long time to contemplate their passion this last year. In one of the precious few positives to emerge from the pandemic, survey after survey shows our relationship with food has changed – for the better.
The way we think about it, and crucially what we buy and choose to consume has shifted. We are, as a population, more focused on where our food comes from, who’s producing it and how, than ever before.
Many have discovered the local larder on our doorstep and started to join the dots between what we eat and the environment, with more of us now hungry for edible solutions to the biggest challenges thrown up by climate change. We’ve begun to understand the power of our appetite and we want to use it – for good.
Restaurants meanwhile have spent the last 13 months feeding key workers and schoolchildren, launching delivery services from scratch and setting up as shopkeepers. All this just to survive. Incredibly, many have stretched their powers of innovation to ensure sustainability was not furloughed along with a large chunk of their workforce.
So what should we expect when we get to return to the outside tables of our favourite restaurants and pubs from today? And how much more can they do satisfy your appetite for food made good and less and better?
Supply chains have been stretched, battered and bruised not just by the impact of hospitality’s closure but by Brexit too. In fact, for a number of restaurants, loyalty to the farmers, fishermen, artisans and tradespeople who supply them was a further incentive for mastering the art of meal kits and food boxes. The lines between foodservice and food retail have blurred – to the advantage of producers.
Hawksmoor have, in their own words, brought a little cheer into people’s lives, and introduced thousands of new people to the concept of better meat: making steak night special and telling the story of the ‘better’ beef they deliver. With the recent appointment of a senior executive to oversee its At Home business and with their successful foray into retail meat sales with Ocado, it looks like this restaurant group is banking on these lockdown business streams to complement its traditional business for some time to come.
Another big name business that provided a major boost to struggling suppliers is Rick Stein Restaurants. Its meal kits and seafood boxes have helped fishermen hamstrung by the post-Brexit bureaucracy find a market in the UK, while giving customers across the UK a taste of the very best of the UK’s seas. Jack Stein is conscious of the risks of being victims of their own success and the need to ensure demand doesn’t outstrip supply. You’ll be able to order Sustainable British seafood in the restaurants, but maybe not delivered to your door for much longer.
Order any pizza from Pizza Pilgrims now, either in one of their growing group of restaurants, or takeaway, and the fragrant basil atop it will come with a minimal footprint. All 4.5 tonnes of the herb for their 35,000 weekly pizza orders, are now grown indoors by Harvest London, thereby knocking 240,000 air miles out of their supply chain, as well as opening the eyes of dozens of chefs and GMs to the opportunities for locally sourced produce.
Thomasina Miers and her team at Wahaca have been busy this last year building on their already extensive list of UK-sourced ingredients. With a Mexican street-food menu that’s now half veg-led, customers will be able to tuck into even more British grown beans and pulses in dishes like the delicious Bean and Crumbled Feta Tostada.
Consumers should also expect to find many more plant-based options on menus. Wagamama which has weathered the pandemic as well, if not better, than many with a thriving takeaway and delivery offering, has pledged to have half its menu veg-based by the end of 2021. Responding to the ever-increasing demand for meat-free dishes, popular Thai chain Rosa’s recently launched a spin-off, Rosa’s Veggie. Open for deliveries and takeaway only so far, don’t rule out a bricks and mortar site soon.
In conclusion, restaurants really can help you to use the power of your appetite wisely and we’re fully expecting more examples of better sourced, shorter, less wasteful menus – providing you with #FoodMadeGood.
Visit www.foodmadegood.org to learn more, or follow the SRA on social. Twitter: @the_SRA and Instagram: @foodmadegood