This week I want to reiterate a point that we previously made about the resilience, creativity, and generosity of our industry.

A time when it would be so easy for many to throw in the towel as our traders have been forced to endure watching their hard work and secured bookings simply vanish into thin air.

Instead, we are seeing industry trailblazers adapt & overcome the continual string of challenges and tests that covid-19 throws at them.

Trailblazer customer & owner of Feast, Leigh is a prime example.

Leigh had been working hard, filling out his 2020 calendar, and was set for a busy summer before the Coronavirus. As the Coronavirus virtually cleared his calendar, the grill guru (Leigh) decided to sidestep & give a much needed helping hand on the food production line in his partners business before jumping back to feeding the frontline workers with his Trailblazer BBQ!

Leigh has also been encouraging people to stay home, stay safe & eat well by generously sharing some of his healthy chargrilled recipes for people to try for themselves on the BBQ. (Check them out on Facebook)

“Due to the Coronavirus outbreak we now have cancellations right up until September. We still have a few in July/August that, at the minute are going ahead, however, only time will tell.”

“When the lockdown was announced, I decided to stop trading pretty much straight away and shifted my attention to my partners business. A lot of traders were setting up delivery options however it didn’t really appeal to me. I think the market around my location is already highly saturated and I’m not sure how beneficial the logistics would have been for me.”

“I stopped trading on a Thursday and on Friday, I was helping out on the production line of Woburn Foods, vacuum packing 1500 packs of mince. It was absolutely crazy!

I usually only go in to help out at Christmas however due to the current circumstances it was great to be able to lend a hand with getting produce out to consumers and keep supply chains running smoothly.”

meals for NHS

A great opportunity then came through Trailblazer BBQ Partner, NCASS & their Work Ops Scheme.

“NCASS have been brilliant, right from the start they were offering support, taking surveys, answering questions and working ridiculously hard to try and present work opportunities to local traders. One of which being Meals for the NHS.”

Trailblazer supports NHS

“Meals for the NHS is a London based charity that was created with an initial target to raise approx. £500,000 in order to supply meals to key frontline workers within the NHS. I think they’re currently up to about £2million.

They now have about 60 hospitals on board, all over the place including most of the major cities.

Originally, Meals for NHS had planned to work with a few London hotels to see what they could do. They soon found out there was more scope and they needed more resources, so they passed it on to NCASS.

We were delighted to step up when NCASS contacted us. It was a great opportunity for us to secure some work whilst also providing a helpful and appreciated service to our front-line workers and help relieve any stress of them having to cook a meal after or during long working hours.

There were a few stipulations, primarily that meals had to be cooked and rapidly chilled ready for distribution, labeled in accordance with FSA guidelines, and delivered direct to the hospitals in refrigerated vehicles. Fortunately we were able to easily comply with this so set the Trailblazer up at our production unit and started gillin’.

We just cook everything on our Trailblazer back at our unit, cool it down, wrap it up, label it & send it in.

As the volumes of meals are high, we scaled the menu way down to just three items. Offering a meat option a vegetarian and vegan option.

I have 200 going in on Monday & 180 on Wednesday which is no problem for our Trailblazer!”

meals for NHS

How do you think the market will recover?

“I think there will be an initial surge of people that will switch back into it the second the lockdown has lifted. Such as, the people who are still trying to get into the parks, etc. However, a good proportion of consumers will be very cautious for quite some time and likely steer clear from large restaurants and high numbered events.

So, I think traders need to look at reorganising themselves into something a bit different.

I’m hoping to do quite a lot of pop up food events. There’s no reason why these shouldn’t be able to kick up again. They are outside, offer plenty of room to move around and it would be nice from a social point of view to get people together again. Even If people weren’t hanging about as long as what they usually would have.

From a cost point of view, especially when you have kids, you could easily spend £60/£70 in a restaurant on Saturday lunch whereas with street food you can go and grab something tasty and healthy for around £5.

One of our pledges for 2020 was to support other local businesses by utilising their products in our meals. Now this year hasn’t turned out quite as planned but I think this is more relevant now than ever. Many traders are asking the public to support their local business which is great but we should also be supporting all the other fantastic small producers in the area by buying their produce for our menus.

The big wholesalers/ cash n carries etc will still be there after this, the small independent producers rely on food shows, events, etc that are all now canceled may not be. If we all buy from local producers not only will we be supporting them our food will be way tastier, believe me, I know. All of the meat comes from local farms, we have baked goods, rapeseed oil, locally grown salad/vegetables and some fantastic sauces all from within 20 miles.

Some of the local farmer’s markets are still trading around here with the essential stuff. They have measures in place etc so not sure what volume they are doing compared to what they usually where.

I think the general retail market side like farmers markets might be a great idea for some traders to look at. They’re regular, relatively cheap to attend and trade as most pitches are only about £20/£30. There are plenty of them around so it could be a great opportunity for people to look at.”

It’s great to hear that Leigh has been able to adapt and utilise his Trailblazer’s high volume capacity to offer much-needed relief and support for our front line workers. Keep up the great work!