There’s no doubt that we are living through exceptionally challenging times. Yet in the face of a global pandemic, you cannot help but be inspired by the acts of global heroism and stories of togetherness to support one another and those affected directly by Covid-19. As many of us are experiencing, the ever-changing world seems like a surreal place to all. With the significant human cost of this outbreak, not only limited to our health but many livelihoods, we wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on the heroes within the hospitality and food services industry. These heroes, who themselves are facing hard and testing challenges are becoming beacons of hope to their communities and customers globally.
- Supporting public health services
Following recent restaurant closures, many volunteers and communities have joined forces to support those most in need. The founder of The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP), Adam Smith, is a great example of mobilising TRJFP’s networks in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield within the UK by working with wholesalers with large quantities of food, typically supplied to the catering industry. Volunteers have been working together to freeze meals, which can then be distributed across the community, including those who are unwell, in insolation. Adam Smith, founder of TRJFP, said: "Let’s get one thing clear - there is no shortage of food”.
With the unprecedented strain on healthcare capabilities, hotel chains have also been offering additional bed space and working with governments to support healthcare services, such as the UK based Great Western Hotels. To support the brave and heroic efforts of healthcare workers, many hotels have also offered free beds to workers in nearby hospitals like the Historic Grand Brighton Hotel, to protect both their health, by offering a comfortable nearby bed and their families to limit the spread.
Technology can also play a part in supporting, with an intelligent example previously shown in Wuhan, where a quarantine facility used a robot kitchen developed by Qianxi Robotic Catering to serve up to 120 servings at a time to the army of doctors, nurses and health officials, helping reduce the risk of infection. These gestures of kindness supporting those public health services are a great example of how companies have been supporting national efforts.
- Chef champions and their communities
Within the US, food waste chef Chef José Andrés and founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters has been offering free food from his closed restaurants to the communities most affected. Firstly, Chef José set up a kitchen in California earlier this month to feed cruise ship guests quarantined from the outbreak. To further support the on-going fight, the chef champion will be transforming eight of his New York and Washington, DC restaurants into community kitchens to deliver food and help those struggling.
UK based zero-waste chef Douglas McMaster, championed his food waste mantra and worked with his team to ensure nothing went to waste when his restaurant Silo had to close due to government advice. Following the closure, Doug and his team cooked the remainder of his food stock to use as donations for vulnerable people in the community.
- Transforming food service operations
These testing times have also shown innovative ways companies have been working as one to deliver mass food-service operations. Within the US, there have been a number of farms who have supported their communities by using their surplus land to coordinate a number of operations, such as food services and childcare.
With football season being postponed, many teams including Manchester City have donated all surplus food to local communities to ensure nothing gets wasted. Disneyland took a similar approach with their park closures and donated all leftover food in the US to the Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition, one of the UK’s largest nightclubs, Studio 338 has recently announced its plans to turn their space into a giant warehouse to store food and other essential items for those in need. The cancellation of global events has also encouraged many companies, including ICC Amadeus in Birmingham to work with clients to donate the leftover food that otherwise would have been wasted, often enough to feed hundreds of people.
Globally, there has been a trend amongst many supermarkets to prioritise elderly, vulnerable and health care workers during this time, with early hourly slots created to ensure those most in need have vital food supplies. Food Banks, powered by determined individuals supporting communities such as Markham Cares Food Drive in Canada shows how people have come together to launch a response in the wake of food ‘panic-buying’ to make sure those in need do not go without.
- Local heroes
The local heroes within communities are also showing how human empathy is shaping support. A postcard campaign launched in the UK by writer Becky Wass, encourages neighbours to drop a postcard indicating they are willing to help through a person’s door and allows households to fill out all the options, including helping with shopping for those who are self-isolating or offering support for those who are lonely and in need to talk to someone. Made in Hackney, based in London is a plant-based kitchen who have also launched a campaign to help the community through crowd-funding, to support not just the vulnerable but those in need in times of financial hardship.
People are also working as one to support the hardships faced by the hospitality industry during this difficult time. Breaking Bread, a Vancouver based hospitality community has been created for those who can financially support their local restaurants during times of closures. Incentives encouraged include an online delivery system on their website, purchasing future gift cards to support closure and writing positive reviews.
From the food and hospitality brands leading the charge to support healthcare, through to chefs championing community support and towns uniting to help those most vulnerable it is inspiring to see how in truly testing times when we join forces we are all stronger, together.