I’ve not written a blog post since March. It didn’t feel right, relevant or particularly useful to anyone, including myself. So hello, welcome back (sort of) and I hope those of you reading this are healthy and doing ok.
It’s been a wild ride, hasn’t it? I’m not going to write a barrage of trite fluff about the last 4 months because.. well because it’s all quite depressing on the whole, isn’t it? I’ve personally felt like the last few months have both flown by and gone on forever. I spent March and April living like it was perpetually Christmas and May and June losing my marbles. I walk a lot now, you may have noticed. It’s partly to keep off the burgers and pizza I’ve been living on, and partly for my sanity. If you’ve managed to not get fat and/or lose your shit then congratulations – you’re adulting a lot better than most of us.
But as we enter July and the hospitality industry wakes up a little bit more I thought I’d pop a quick post up with some thoughts about how we can all continue to support independent local businesses (specifically food and drink) during the summer months. When the bars, cafes and restaurants reopen on July 4th you’ll notice a lot of changes – and not all of your favourites will choose to reopen then. Some people are really excited to be back out eating and drinking, some think it’s all too soon and want to stay home. Both are absolutely valid, of course.
So with that in mind, knowing so many of you want to support (and importantly keep on supporting) our local gems I’ve put together some ways to show you care. We’re all new to this stuff – keep being kind and showing the community spirit that’s kept so many of us going this year. Right, here goes..
Book a table
From Saturday July 4th you will be able to visit SOME of your favourite places again. Others will open days, weeks or months later. Keep an eye on social media posts and book in for dinner IF you feel comfortable doing so. You’ll probably need to book a table (cafes etc will vary) and there are multiple restrictions. Make sure you’re aware of those before you turn up, and remember to be polite, patient and kind – we’re all learning. Don’t forget to visit midweek not just at the weekends too. Finally… tip. And tip well.
I know a lot of you, like me, have been feeding your souls with takeout during this shitscape, and rest assured most places will continue this even if they’re “open” again. I’ve continued spending a lot on other people’s food during lockdown and I still plan to. While delivery apps are useful, don’t forget to find out whether you can collect or order directly through the business so they receive more of the profits.
Buy from their websites
Many bars and small businesses are also selling online with delivery. We’ve had various beer, wine, hot sauce and cheese deliveries during lockdown, for example. It’s a great way to support your independents and also eat and drink well at home. Literally everyone is a winner.
Cook at home
Following on from the last point, it’s worth noting various restaurants and traders are offering DIY packs, ready meals and “finish at home” style packs. We’ve enjoyed The Meat Shack, Baked in Brick, Fat Snags, Ox and Origin and more – you just need to be prepared to put in a bit of effort. I was actually impressed how good everything turned out.
Invest in vouchers
A lot of restaurants have vouchers available to buy and they can be used way in the future. A good birthday or anniversary present for someone you love perhaps, who can’t celebrate quite the way they’d like to right now. It’s a good way to support a local venue and also something for them to look forward to using when the time is right.
Utilise your high street
Even during lockdown various local shops that sold food remained open. More will spring back to life in coming weeks so remember to use those where you can. I buy all my swish cheeses from small shops rather than supermarkets, and you can get great fresh produce from delis etc. Don’t forget them in the rush to get back to wining and dining outside the home.
Don’t forget street food
Just because big events aren’t going ahead doesn’t mean you can’t still grab street food to enjoy. Digbeth Dining Club, for example, has been offering a collection service with multiple traders during lockdown (we enjoyed Patty Freaks burgers and shawarma bowls from Kebab Cartel) and some traders are doing pop ups in places like pub car parks. Keep an eye on your favourite traders via social media so you don’t miss out.
Share the love
If you’ve had a great meal delivered, or you felt a venue offered you great service, consider shouting about it. I do this on Instagram (admittedly at an annoying level) but you could do this via any social media or review site. Fuck it – just text your mates and share the love! Sharing your positive experience means a lot to the small businesses but also helps others find great sources to use in future. At the very least go follow all your favourites on social media.
Prepare for the future
We are at a point where the phrase “use it or lose it” has never been more important. Keep supporting and looking to the future – how do you want your city’s food scene to look in the next 6-12 months? And don’t forget apps like Independent Birmingham that need your love and money too right now.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back blogging regularly (the world is still a very odd place and my life is just as weird as yours at the moment) but I hope you’re all doing well. Keep supporting Birmingham independents and small businesses, wash your hands, and if in doubt just drink all the wine.