Steve Ashworth, Director at PKF Francis Clark talks about the importance of supporting food and drink businesses, along with why the Share a Smile campaign is so important to these businesses this Autumn/Winter.
At the beginning of lockdown, as the food and drink sector was sent into a tailspin, I read an article that said ‘the industry was on its knees anyway and this has just fast forwarded us all two years’.
At the time I questioned this, but unfortunately it may have been right for some. My passion is the food sector and I love it and live it as much as I can. Many of these businesses are not just places I visit for a coffee or a casual meal or even for fine dining – I am pleased to call many owners and staff my friends, and I have felt the pain across the sector over the last seven months.
When Boris Johnson announced in March that all hospitality venues had to close, the months that followed with the pandemic brought the worst time in memory for restaurants, cafes and pubs. They, like many businesses, have been hit with changes, often with little notice, in regulations, lockdowns, redundancies, closures and most recently the 10pm curfew, bringing many food and drink businesses to their knees.
Despite all of this, the sector is resilient and some of the changes have helped them to get through the interim periods; many have changed their business model to bounce back.
If you had been asked at the start of 2020 what you would miss most if restaurants, cafes and pubs vanished overnight, what would you have said? The local food? The service? Your favourite dish? A pint of cider? The nostalgia and social aspect of going out together? Did anyone ever think it would be as simple as being able to book a table and sit down as a group, before having to leave by 10pm?
Our South West food and drink scene is like no other that I know of. Vibrant, passionate and fiercely independent. It is a privilege to eat across the South West and taste what I know is some of the best local food and drink that we grow, produce and cook in the UK. Food brings people together, to not only share culinary experiences, but to use food and drink to make change happen. It is all about social engagement with a delicious meal and drink in your hand.
So now is the time to support these businesses more than ever. Our Share a Smile Campaign is encouraging people to get out and visit our amazing hospitality, leisure and tourism sector whilst staying safe. Take a photograph of you, your family and friends having a great time over breakfast, coffee and cake, lunch or dinner in some of our beautiful locations – remembering to post on either Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #ShareaSmileSW. Help the hospitality sector to grow and keep employing those who are passionate about food and drink.