Can't dine out? UK restaurants offer DIY meal kits to survive lockdown

© Reuters. Co-founders of Pizza Pilgrims, brothers Thom (L) and James Elliot, pose for a photograph in one of their restaurants amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London

By Will Russell

LONDON (Reuters) – From fast food to fine dining, some restaurants in Britain are relying on home kits to keep them afloat during lockdown, turning clients into cooks who recreate favourite meals in the comfort of their own kitchens.

For James Knappett, chef-owner of Michelin-starred London restaurant Kitchen Table, the decision to deliver do-it-yourself (DIY) meal kits wasn’t easy, but it was essential.

The venue has been closed since the first lockdown in March, because seating is around a kitchen table so social distancing is not possible.

“It’s a very hard feeling to have to give this control to the guests…But the word that we use every day more than any…is survival, and if we didn’t do that there wouldn’t be a restaurant to come back to,” he told Reuters while packing a box of his home-tasting menu.

The restaurant used to be fully booked every day with a three-month waiting list and employed 20 people. Now there’s a staff of four handling about 80 home delivery orders per week, Knappett said.

Targeting the high-end of the market, meal kits cost 150-250 pounds for two and come with cooking instructions.

For brothers James and Thom Elliot, the lockdowns provided an unexpected lifeline for their “pizza in the post” Pizza Pilgrims business.

“We tried to launch this back in 2014 and it was a spectacular failure, people just weren’t ready for it. But then the pandemic put everyone at home and suddenly everyone was really missing pizza and we relaunched the kit and it’s just been madness ever since,” said James.

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For the initiative, whereby clients roll out the dough and select from a range of toppings, the brothers brought back 30 out of 270 staff who had been furloughed from the restaurant business to re-launch “pizza in the post”.

The venture now sells over 1,000 kits a day delivered by couriers.

Priced at 15 pounds for two pizzas, the Elliots say the business was profitable from day one.

“We absolutely think this is going to be something that is going to be staying around after the vaccine in 2021,” James said.

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