Speaking on BigHospitality’s latest UnitedWeStand podcast, the pair behind KERB’s street food markets in London as well as their Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden discussed the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the street food sector as well as their food business.
Looking to the short-term future, Mitchell says that while it is unlikely that its Seven Dials Market will open any time soon, he is more confident that KERB’s various food markets could begin trading quite soon after lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“Seven Dial Market is not the sort of place where customers will want to be wearing masks and having to stand two metres apart – that’s not going to work for a food hall,” he says.
“For our lunch markets, we’re quite confident that we can open them fairly soon and quickly once people are allowed back in the offices. We can spread the traders out and adhere to social distancing.
“We already hold the traders to the highest hygiene standards, and they can trade wearing face masks – they already wear gloves. They can get back trading sooner than most businesses.”
On how the pandemic might change the face of the street food sector, the pair say they are optimistic about its future, although admit there will be fallout from the current crisis.
“[The pandemic] will put some people off, but it will present a new angle and opportunities for feeding people,” says Barran.
“It will instil into the industry a whole new level of talent and ideas and entrepreneurism. But at the same time, we are probably going to lose a lot of businesses.”
“People were getting into street food as a fast track to opening a restaurant,” adds Mitchell. “We will now see people turn to street food as a way of surviving.”
Since lockdown was introduced, KERB has introduced a number of initiatives to help its street food community, including KERB TV as a way of publicly sharing its experience and wisdom. It has also and started online workshops and most recently launched an online grocery delivery service called the Seven Dials Market Cornershop.
“We feel incredibly needed,” says Mitchell. “It’s a way of keeping the trader community alive.”
The pair are also calling on the Government for more support, saying that the rent-free period being asked for by Hospitality Union was essential. They say an extension to furlough is necessary and that banks should be pushed to lend to businesses.
“We also need more help for traders who slip through the cracks and who don’t have their own premises,” says Mitchell. “Small business relief is essential to keep businesses afloat.”
UnitedWeStand has been created by William Reed hospitality titles BigHospitality, Restaurant magazine and Morning Advertiser and is supported by Britvic, CocaCola European Partners and Unilever Food Solutions.
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