How to support local restaurants and small businesses right now

The current COVID-19 lockdown still has a big question mark over it. How long will it continue? Many small, local or independent businesses are asking that same question – so here’s how you can help...

6 mins

Without the world’s independent restaurants, cafés, breweries and bars, the culinary landscape across the globe would be a much less interesting place. 

Sadly, lots of them have been hard hit by the coronavirus lockdown, meaning job losses, empty venues and risk of closure for good.

We can’t do much for our favourites abroad right now, but we might be able to help the ones at home. Indeed, even the world’s biggest chains are likely struggling right now. 

Here are a few ways you can help right now…

First things first, head to social media

If you’re worried about the local cafés, breweries, restaurants and businesses in your area, the best thing to do is to start with their social media channel – or their official website.

It’s very likely they’ll have shared an update on their current situation, and have posted about any initiatives they’re doing. 

We’ve seen some US-based eateries share GoFundMe pages with regulars, in order to help avoid slashing staff wages or shutting altogether.

Likewise, they may be offering new at-home options or a different kind of service, appropriate for lockdown and social distancing.

Order contact-free restaurant delivery

Fancy Korean fried chicken? See if you can order it (Shutterstock)

Fancy Korean fried chicken? See if you can order it (Shutterstock)

If there’s a restaurant you love offering contact-free deliveries, consider it. Lots are via their own websites, or browse the usual suspects like JustEat, UberEats and Deliveroo.

Deliveroo also gives you the option in some parts of the UK to add a donation to give ‘free meals to those who need it’, like NHS staff and emergency service workers.

We’d suggest you expect wait times to be a little bit longer than usual, as many restaurants – particularly those that weren’t open for delivery previously – will be new to the system.

Tip, tip, tip away, too, where appropriate – but only online if the option’s there. Ideally, you should have no contact with the delivery driver at all.

Keep an eye on local news and community groups

Usually on your travels, and therefore not a regular patron of your local establishments? If you feel compelled to spread the love, but aren’t sure where needs your support, no worries.

You’ll likely be able to learn about the latest initiatives via regional news – here’s an excellent guide from the Bournemouth Echo about their local establishments - or by joining a local COVID-19 support group on Facebook.

Indeed, lots of kind-hearted individuals have set up pages where they can reach out to members of their community, offering support and essential services. As long as you’re carefully following your local government’s instructions re: coronavirus social distancing and lockdown, and protecting your health and the health of others, it’s a positive way to get involved.

Enjoy a virtual tipple with some independent craft beers

The Craft Beer Discovery Box (Beer52)

The Craft Beer Discovery Box (Beer52)

Our friends at Beer52 are hosting the world’s first online beer festival - for just £29.99 you’ll get a crate of craft beer from independent breweries from all around the world delivered, and access to plenty of livestreams, Q&As and drink-along sessions. A really fun way to get involved.

(We also have a great deal on their discovery box: eight global, indie beers for just £12)

If there’s a brewery near you, there are plenty of delivery options for craft beer lovers. UK pubs & breweries like Signature Brew in London and Full Circle Brew in Newcastle-upon-Tyne are offering to deliver crates of booze to your door.

Prefer a sophisticated glass of red? No worries. Wanderlust Wine (no relation!) focuses its selection on lesser-known, artisan wines from up-and-coming wine regions around the world. Buy by the bottle and get it delivered, or go for a £100 discovery crate, to taste your way around Europe’s vineyards… 

Don’t forget about the UK’s independent cheeses

Here’s something you may not have thought about: the world of cheese is in a frantic state of disarray – with countless gallons of milk being poured away and fresh cheeses left to get stinky (and not in a good way).

So, while shoppers are stuck at home, the entire cheese industry is asking consumers to take part in the ‘British Cheese Weekender’ on 8 to 10 May.

Essentially, what they’re hoping is that consumers will consider ordering top-of-the-line, artisan and lesser-known cheeses (i.e. not your standard block of cheddar) via the internet. Honestly, you don’t need to ask us twice to eat fancy cheese.

Consider buying your fruit & veg direct – or via a service

Can you order local produce? (Shutterstock)

Can you order local produce? (Shutterstock)

Of course, there are few corners of industry that COVID-19 has yet to touch. UK farmers have been hit, too, and naturally, they want people to buy local.

In fact, Farming Life reports many farmers across the country have already expanded their services to include direct veg deliveries (particularly to vulnerable people, elderly neighbours and key workers), or have teamed up with other small businesses to double the number of at-home deliveries.

Likewise, there are plenty of retailers online who offer deliveries of fresh fruits and veggies, or locally-sourced products in the form of weekly meal kits. Hello Fresh, Piper's Farm and Oddbox are just a few. Some might be a bit pricier, but if you can afford it, it’s well worth considering.

Finally, don't overlook your corner shop, or smaller grocery stores. They may well have stock the nearest big supermarket doesn't have.

Look out for gift cards

Naturally, many of us will be using our mandated walking time to head to the shops to pick up what we need to eat – or indeed some of us may still be working out of the house in essential roles - so deliveries might not always be the most practical. 

If so, many eateries, foodie hot spots, breweries, shops and countless other businesses allow for the purchase of gift vouchers online, to use at a later date. Better still, no physical contact is necessary, and you’ll be sent a voucher via email.

Check your chosen business’ site to see if they offer gift vouchers. This is also a great option if you’d like to make a small gesture, but don’t want to – or haven’t the funds - to spend much.

Take an online class (or two, or three)

Shoes in a Moroccan bazaar (Shutterstock)

Shoes in a Moroccan bazaar (Shutterstock)

What’s a trip abroad without exploring markets, bazaars and quirky local shops? Or a trip to Buenos Aires without a classic Salsa lesson from a local dance teacher?

Any business or independent contractor reliant on in-person interactions (not just shops, but tutors and instructors, personal trainers, childminders, etc) to make their living is well and truly stumped.

Enter the wonderful world of Zoom (or Microsoft Teams, or Houseparty, or Google Hangout, or YouTube Live), where its now possible to take part in a variety of online events and classes.

See if your local Zumba instructor is offering the chance to dance to the world’s rhythms from your living room - or if your local craft shop is offering a virtual get-together all about your favourite hobby. Perhaps even a travel blogger or brand you love – many are independent businesses or independent contractors – is offering some kind of virtual get together.

Anyone taking part is a bonus. Even if classes are kindly offered free of charge, the number of viewers and level of engagement will surely help them to build their brands and secure future work.

There’s lots of options and exciting new online events – we couldn’t possibly list all the potential classes out there – so keep your eyes peeled. That said, for info on travel specific suggestions, please read here.

Finally, you don’t need to spend to show support

For a number of reasons that we won’t harp on about, COVID-19 will have changed the financial situation for so many people. In a dream world, we’d all have cash to flash – but for lots of us, we may have to be a bit more cautious.

If you’d still like to support your local business, but you’re unable to spend, why not draw attention to the amazing work they’re doing on social media? It could be as simple as sharing a Facebook update from them. Or perhaps a little #ThrowbackThursday post about how you can’t wait to go back. Make sure to use the correct @ handle or tag them so they can see it.

Leave a review (in all the usual places), highlighting all the wonderful things about the business, the staff and how you can’t wait to go back. A personal email direct to the business, particularly in praise of any hardworking staff you’ve dealt with, also goes a long way.

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