Coping with coronavirus: Caring, creative and quirky initiatives from our retail and hospitality sectors

The coronavirus pandemic may be causing mayhem across the world, and retailers and the hospitality groups have been thrown into disarray.

But adversity is forcing organisations of all sizes to overhaul how they function and reach their customers. In the last week we have seen caring, creative and downright quirky new ways to serve.

In particular the crisis has prompted some companies to focus on how they can use their resources and supply chain expertise to aid their communities at a time of great disruption.

Retail Connections Covid

Here is a round-up of measures that firms have taken to help people out in the wake of the crisis:

Supermarkets are the stars of the show  

Iceland is encouraging store managers to dedicate the first two hours of trading to those of state pension age, while M&S is providing its suppliers with additional hygiene products.

Booths, which runs 28 stores across the North West of England, is dedicating 9:30am to 11am each day to vulnerable and elderly customers.

Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Asda have introduced per-customer limits on groceries to prevent panic buying.

Co-op helps fill the free school meals gap

Steve Murrells, Co-op CEO has written to members saying:  “It’s not just customers in our food stores we’re thinking about either. We know that for many children who get free school meals, lunch is the main meal of the day, so if school closes unexpectedly there’s a risk they go hungry. We can’t let this happen.

“So, we’re stepping in and giving 6,500 students that have free school meals at our 25 Co-op Academy schools a £20 voucher for every week of unplanned closure. This can be spent in any Co-op food store. But it’s a drop in the ocean when you consider there are 1.4 million kids on free school meals in this country. So that’s why today, I’ve also asked the Government to lead a nationwide effort to make sure no child goes hungry just because they can’t go to school.”

Leon’s 50% discount to NHS staff

Leon restaurants remain open at the time or writing, and the restaurant chain has emailed its customer base to say that staff working in hospitals near to outlets will benefit from 50% discounts on food and drink. The chain is also offering free delivery to these customers. In an email from ‘co-founder John’ there is a request for ideas about how to better serve the community, and a call out to companies that would like to partner, so that other products could be supplied through the chain of restaurants.

Pret coronavirusPret a Manger free hot drinks for NHS staff

Quick to react, the coffee chain has moved to a takeaway-only model to try to reduce points of contact in shops and limit the chance of the virus being spread.  Pret is also offering free hot drinks to NHS staff and a 50% discount on all other purchases.

Brewdog’s brewgel production

Hand sanitiser is in huge demand as consumers look to follow government guidelines and keep their hands virus-free. To increase supply, beer producer Brewdog has started using its distillery to make its own sanitiser and is handing it out free to those in need.  James Watt, the company’s chief executive, said: “We want to do all we can to help everyone get through this difficult time.”

Free toilet roll with café breakfast

The owner of the Cafe Zara Lounge in the Isle of Dogs, east London, is offering a free toilet roll with every cooked breakfast purchased. Owner Shuhel Ahmed says he noticed local shoppers were struggling to find loo roll to buy, and he can get plenty from his wholesaler. He is also offering to deliver meals to elderly people who can’t leave their homes.

Ann Summer penis pasta special offer

Always looking for a saucy angle for its marketing, Ann Summers has taken the step of offering a three for the price of two promotion on its boxes of penis shaped pasta. It’s a tongue in cheek bid to help with the rush on dried foods, and the move succeeded in getting the brand lots of coverage in the tabloids, while giving us something to smile about in these dark days.

Darts Farm click and collect in car park Darts Farm offers car park click and collect

A high-end grocer near Exeter, Darts Farm, is offering free home delivery to the over-70s and collection in its car park. Michael Dart, director, said: “We wanted to do everything that we could do to help them during this difficult period, so we came up with our free home delivery to the over 70s and the vulnerable, and our order and collect service from our car park.”

Louis Vuitton making hand sanitiser

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak. The luxury goods maker says it wants to help tackle a nationwide shortage of the anti-viral products across France. “These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities,” LVMH announced on Sunday.

Flying Horse pub offering free hotel rooms

The Flying Horse pub, in Greater Manchester, meanwhile, is opening its hotel rooms free of charge to anyone unable to self-isolate at home because they live with vulnerable relatives.

161 Food + Drink starts ‘wine milkrounds’

With many pubs and bars voluntarily closing their doors this week, many stay-at-home folk are in need of a reassuring glass of wine at the end of the day. In Sydenham, co-founder of 161 Food + Drink, Alex Thorp says: “Opening a nice bottle of wine is going to become a treat.”  The bar and wine merchant will be starting ‘wine milkrounds’ – delivering bottles of wine free of charge to thirsty customers in south east London on Tuesdays and Fridays.

No doubt there will be many more smart initiatives retailers, pubs and restaurants will launch in the coming weeks. For many these fresh ideas could help them improve service for the long term.

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