Guy Singh Watson – Riverford Organic

In this episode I’m joined by Guy from Riverford Organic Farmers chatting about the surge in demand for their vegetable boxes.  Guy is always good for an opinion or two and I thought it would be interesting to chat to someone incredibly busy, rather than quiet, as a result of the Coronavirus impact.  

We chat about how Guy and his team are simplifying their offering, going back to their original roots as a veg box delivery company.  Guy in many ways hopes this will be a long term move since he has always wanted to sell more seasonal produce, rather than adding complexity due to the demands of the customer.  The environmental implications of a less consumer driven supply chain could be a long term benefit to the wider farming wold, and society in general.

We also touch on the potential ‘land army’ being recruited from the UK, rather than Eastern Europe, to help farmers with picking and the longer term implications that could have on wages, working standards and the price of food.  

Whilst Riverford is currently closed to new customers they are working hard on getting back to ‘normal’ and looking after the loyal, regular customers who Guy and this team have always so enjoyed serving.

I think Riverford are a great company with a great ethos and give us hope about the balance between our human impact, demands and potential change in our relationship to the food we eat.

Jack Stein – Chef Director

In this episode I catch up with Chef Director Jack Stein at his family’s Rick Stein restaurant Group.

Whilst Rick Stein is locked down in Australia I’d seen alot in the past ten days with Jack defending a pretty negative article in the Daily Mail.  Jack has been very honest with his team and customers about the financial challenges the business is facing as a result of it’s current coronavirus related shut down.  We discuss the challenges of meeting £300k a week in payroll costs with £0 revenue coming through the door, and some of the unfair accusations around how his Dad should simply ‘put his hand in his pocket’ and pay people.

We chat about the challenges specifically of operating in tourist towns in seasonal hotspots and the further complexity that is going to add to re-establishing their business.  We touch on a potential insurance claim and the issues around the insurance industry thus far managing to wiggle out of claims.

We finish off with some of the great ways the industry is responding including a ‘virtual food festival’ running Easter Monday 13th April with details via Jack’s Instagram page.

Giles Henschel – Olives Et Al

This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how Giles Henschel is trying to pivot his business during the coronavirus challenge.

Giles has been in business for many years and has a background in the military so I was very keen to see if he had any wise words on how to navigate his business through the crisis.  Many of us in hospitality have been advised to offer home delivery, either of produce or finished products.  But this has its complexities and I’ve felt that the wholesalers are better placed to offer this than the restaurants.

Giles has done just that re-establishing his B to C brand Loaf and Larder and complimenting what the supermarkets are trying to offer with home delivery.  His primary motivation, rather than profit, simply to keep his team employed and ensure he is in the best position to be able to trade out of the other side. 

We also touch on the balance of keeping entrepreneurial and recognising we must some day re-establish the economy, whilst we all have a desire to keep the team and community safe.

Enjoy the conversation, and if you can please support the podcast via our page on Patreon

Kate Nicholls – UK Hospitality

This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how Kate and UK Hospitality are working hard to represent the UK hospitality industry, with a direct ear to the UK Government.

Kate and I have a wide ranging chat covering their early involvement in keeping the government abreast of how quickly the hospitality sector was being impacted as the coronavirus travelled at pace around the world.  The sector was an early warning barometer of what was about to come to others, as occupancy rates and visitors to bars and restaurants dropped, long before they were told to close.

We also chat about the benefits of grants over loans speeding up the potential recovery once this is over, but how the lifting of a lockdown is not likely to be instantaneous, but a staggered release and what the impact of that may look like.

The potential impact of landlords working better with tenants to share responsibility for our recovery also crops up, and a of course a celebration of the incredible response of the hospitality sector in trying to help the NHS and local communities on a national level.

Mitch Tonks – Seahorse & Rockfish

This is a shorter special edition of the podcast looking at how some humans in the hospitality sector are coping with changes as a result of the coronavirus.  

Mitch is an utter gentleman of our industry who has created a small group of restaurants that have an exceptional reputation for being part of the local community, generally in seaside resorts of South West England.  Along with his chairman Will from Hawksmoor, they are a couple of wise brains who really understand the hospitality sector, and operate for the right reasons with strong values and a passion for service.

In this conversation we chat about how events unfolded and when Mitch decided to close his venues, before being told to by the government.  We then focus on quite probably the more challenging aspect of how we re-establish our businesses and how much support may be required to trade again.

We touch on business interruption loans, the job retention scheme and even wether the government could step in as ‘an insurer of last resort’.

Typically Mitch ends on a positive note confident that he will rebuild and see us all with business intact on the other side.