What a strange year so far….

What a strange year so far….

…and strange is not the only word to describe the year since March 23rd when Lockdown was first announced.

Back in March when lockdown was first mentioned on the news, our conversation in the office turned first to our long term customers and then the industry in general. It seemed clear even then that next to the Arts our industry, the industry of eating out, events catering and catering for large canteens was going to find it difficult to adjust. There was talk of working from home, socially distancing, avoiding crowds. As well as a few large kitchen fitting projects at the time we were working with a few pubs and restaurants that were preparing to open having just re-designed their new kitchens, only just positioned their brand new equipment. We were now having to advise them that lockdown meant all works had to be stopped and their kitchens closed until further notice from the government.


We spent the next few weeks wondering what the longer term impact was going to be on us and the wider industry. We were fully expecting all our own work to stop – certainly all our projects were having to be at least momentarily shelved. Within weeks however, to our surprise, we did start to receive some requests for complete kitchen refits, with the deadline that they had to be completed before lockdown was lifted. Phew, this could be a challenge!

We decided to take them on and with social distancing and PPE we were able to make these happen, within timescale. In some ways it turned out to be easier to do run these projects than had been previously – the roads were quieter, premises empty of customers & users. In a short time we refitted a whole kitchen in Northampton and one in Bournville. This also gave us hope that cooks and chefs were still looking forward to the end of the pandemic and planning for the future.

For our office at Kitchen Solutions the lockdown meant we had to work out how to implement social distancing. Well for those who have visited our premises they know the office is quite small and social distancing impossible. The only solution was to send the office ‘home’ to various houses. A little daunting at first, but actually as a small business whose staff is very local it didn’t turn out to be so difficult. Computers, telephones & folders were packed and moved and us all being so local meant that at short notice any one of us could run down to the warehouse to meet deliveries or pop into the office to consult paperwork if needed. And so we joined thousands around the country who were getting used to colleagues becoming just a voice on the end of a telephone and juggling home and work in the same space.

As the lockdown progressed and then began to ease we were delighted to see many of our customers returning to work. We began to receive many enquiries for replacement of equipment that had broken down while being switched off. Strangely equipment sales started getting very busy and so did we. It was then that we began to understand that the COVID effect on our industry, as probably to many others, was not immediately apparent. Apart from the effect that it had on those running catering establishments, as suppliers what we did exeperience and what we are still recovering from is the effect the lockdown had on our own supply chain. With some equipment transport & haulage stopping altogether for a time and many businesses operating at skeleton staff what would usually have been a very smooth chain of demand and supply began to stutter. Deliveries were arriving late or broken; ‘returns’, ‘replacements’ and ‘out of stock’ were becoming more frequently used than ever.


But things are definitely returning back to normal now. Or at least a kind of normal – the pubs, restaurants, breweries, take-aways are not being put off. They are doing their best to re-open and to remain open. What before used to be only sit-down restaurants are now adapting to also provide takeaways. Beer deliveries are becoming standard.

All these businesses are stocking up on hand wash stations, PPE, are making space for more distance. They are doing what they have to do to continue to provide everyone with food, drinks and atmosphere.

In the height of lockdown we got a glimpse of what high streets would be like if we had none of these businesses. Isn’t it great to see them back!!

As well as the above, Nursing Homes, Care Homes, Schools, Colleges, and other larger catering establishments are now secure that they are and will be as needed as ever and full refurbishments that had maybe been shelved a few months back are back on. We are getting busier which is good for us, but there is one aspect of the wider catering that is still in very uncertain times, and that is the mobile catering industry. With festivals, markets and other larger scale events severely restricted when will they be able to get back to some kind of normal? Only those who can convert to a mobile catering van or something similar are finding a way through…

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