Coronavirus: Support independents. Talk to them. Spend with them.

Great Food Club comment:

This is an existential crisis for many local independents. Before heading to the supermarket to stock up, consider what you can buy from your local food shops, traders, pubs and restaurants. Also, talk to them. Give them a call or pop in for a (socially distant) chat. Start a conversation. Explain how they can help you and ask how you can help them.


Since 2010, we’ve been shining a light on small, talented, local food & drink businesses. From farms to farm shops, from street-food vendors to pubs and restaurants, Great Food Club exists to celebrate these important enterprises. They make our villages, towns and cities better places. Their energy, stories, personalities and passion add up to much more than just a nice meal.

Therefore, we acutely feel their worry and disorientation during this unprecedented coronavirus challenge. The government’s recent ‘neither fish nor foul’ message that we should avoid pubs and restaurants but they should remain open (if they want) adds further confusion, and risks zombifying the entire hospitality sector.

How should we as customers – as food & drink lovers – respond? Well, first and foremost, of course, we must look after our vulnerable family and friends.

However, this is an existential crisis for many local independents and if we want them to survive, we must support them, too. The government needs to act to help them financially through however long this thing lasts. But we should also act.

Every household is right now hellbent on making sure it is as ready as possible for whatever challenges lie ahead. Supermarkets are the primary beneficiaries of this drive. However, before heading to the supermarket to stock up again and again, consider what you can buy from your local food shops, traders, pubs and restaurants.

An excellent place to start is to talk to them. Give them a call or pop in for a chat. Start a conversation. Explain how they can help you and ask how you can help them. Do they plan to offer takeaways? Can they deliver bread, milk, wine or other essentials? An advantage of small businesses is flexibility. This agility – plus their knowledge of the local community – give many of them the power to become vital hubs during this crisis.

Second, if you’re healthy and feel safe doing so, continue to book tables and eat and drink out as much as possible. If you have to cancel your reservation, give as much notice as you can.

Third, if you don’t want to, or can’t, eat out, consider buying vouchers to use later. They could be cashed in for a post-coronavirus celebration meal (how good will that occasion be?), a deferred Mothers’ Day gathering, or set aside for a rainy day. If you know someone who’s isolating, buy them a dining voucher with a gift note. It would brighten up anyone’s day to receive a voucher with a message that read: “Hope you’re doing OK. Let’s hook up to eat out as soon as possible.”

Fourth, send messages of support and post positive reviews. The importance of raising morale should not be underestimated.

These are surreal, bizarre and worrying times for everyone, but we can get through it and come out stronger if we support each other. So please, spend some of your budget at local food & drink businesses. Pick up the phone and talk to your village pub, independent restaurant or local shop. Doing so will help to ensure local independents keep on trucking during this unprecedentedly challenging time.

Search for excellent food & drink independents here.

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.