ONE of the biggest business casualties of the coronavirus lockdown has been the closure of cafes, restaurants and pubs.
But thanks to a veritable army of workers determined to keep outlets going, many people are still enjoying restaurant dining experiences at home, with jobs saved and – for those self-isolating – welcome human contact.
Members of the New Forest Marque local produce scheme, for example, have recruited special delivery drivers – in the form of national park authority rangers. Of about 160 members, around half have adapted to takeaways.
Claire Lee, New Forest Marque operations manager, said: “There’s a tremendous effort going on out there. So many people are working hard to support each other as well as local businesses and the community.”
Customers have been able to enjoy restaurant meals at home, and in Milford residents of Milford Court specially clapped their thanks for the local shopkeepers, restaurant owners and hoteliers who have embraced home delivery.
In New Milton, the Hourglass microbrewery is offering a collection and delivery service for their craft ales and beer.
Jake Priestley, who co-owns the Station Road bar, told the A&T: “We are offering two pints in milk cartons, or a three-litre bag in a box
“People have a quick chat when they come in and I think a lot of people are really missing talking to other people during lockdown, especially if they are on their own.”
Bridges café in Lymington is delivering home-cooked meals like salmon en croute with vegetables, followed by a pudding.
Owner Josephine Byrne said: “People phone in their order and sometimes we can be on the phone for 15 minutes because a lot of these people are on their own and have no one to talk to.
“Launching the deliveries means I haven’t had to furlough my staff. I am hoping to continue this service afterwards as the response has been so good.”
At the Thatched Cottage Hotel in Brockenhurst, owner Matthew Lawson, who is chairman of the New Forest Business Partnership, is offering a takeaway coffee service which can be enjoyed with freshly baked scones, jam and cream.
He said: “We have had to cancel all bookings for the hotel at the moment so in a small way this is helping the business to tick over.
“We are taking all the precautions we need to – the jam and cream come in individual packages, for example.
“People have been delighted to be able to enjoy a takeaway coffee. It’s a small thing but something they have been really missing.”
Roots and Fruits in Lymington is working flat out to keep up with the demand for produce boxes and has had to take over a nearby closed hairdressers to create a “mini factory”.
Tracy Ritchie, who runs the business in Angel Court with husband Stuart Dowling, said: “Before lockdown we were delivering 150 boxes – this is now 650.
“Stuart is getting up at 3am every day to go to the market in Southampton.
“We are making up the boxes until 8pm at night. We have wonderful volunteers who are delivering them for us, including a fireman who does it when he is not on duty.”
Other local businesses that have adapted are Myner’s Cider, Highcliffe, which is offering a delivery service, and the Cider Pantry in Burley has homemade meals to re-heat at home. The shop is still open from 10am to 3pm daily.
The Cave in Milford offers free delivery for wine and beer, while many of the village’s restaurants are providing takeaway and delivery, including Ray’s Kitchen, The Lazy Lion and the South Lawn Hotel. La Perle restaurant also has fish and chip Fridays.
Rosie Lea Tea House and Bakery in Brockenhurst offers take-out or pick-up while the Balmer Lawn Hotel is now delivering essential food packages.
Forest Park Hotel has restaurant quality meals, including Sunday roast, for collection and delivery. In Lymington, Café 3 the Elderflower restaurant, the Borough Arms, Ciao Belli and Lal Quilla are doing the same.
Passage to India in Lyndhurst has a takeaway service, while Berties fish and chip shop is offering deliveries on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The Mailman’s Arms in the village is doing takeaway and local delivery Thursday to Saturday, with a roast on Sundays.
Minstead Lodge is providing cooked meals for residents of the village for £7.50 each on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.