The UK Government’s scheme will cover the costs of a half-price discount on eating out (up to the value of £10) on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August – but by choosing to use the discount to eat specifically with independent food and drink venues, customers will be directing that government support to those small businesses, high streets and communities who need it the most.
That is the message from the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective, a group of over 300 local food and drink businesses which formed in May to help the sector through lockdown.
Simon Wright, restaurateur, food writer and owner of Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthne, is a founding member of the collective. He explains:
“We have a food and drink sector in Wales that has risen to new heights in recent years and we need this to be the foundation of a thriving, sustainable food and farming economy that brings jobs, prosperity and new life to local communities. Independent cafes, pubs, restaurants and takeaways are at the forefront of that, but they are fuelled by a raft of producers, growers, farmers and fishermen that supply them.
This whole ecosystem is under threat just at a time when we most need it to underpin the change to a food system that sees the value of what we produce retained in Wales rather than siphoned off by large corporations.
Eat independent, support local is a campaign aimed at bringing that to the attention of the Welsh public. If you spend with an independent, the value is multiplied many times in the Welsh economy, and that’s what we need now more than ever – spend local and independent and keep the money in Wales.”
The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective was formed by a group of restaurant owners to give a stronger voice to the sector. Calculating that lockdown and social distancing measures had put 30,000 jobs at risk in Wales, the Collective is campaigning for greater support from government at all levels.
They are asking independent businesses to display an ‘Eat Independent, Support Local’ window sticker throughout August, and asking the Welsh public to shout about their favourite local independents using the hashtag #EatIndieWales.
They have also been highlighting just how important independent food and drink businesses are to Wales’ tourism offer, how vital they are for high street footfall, and their crucial role in supporting the farming, hospitality and local service sectors.
One such business is Hide in St Donats, a boutique accommodation business which has four cabans tucked between the trees at Tresilian Wood. Run by husband and wife team Paula and Tom Warren, they explain:
“Our business relies on great local restaurants using local produce to attract tourists to the area. Without Wales’ incredible, independent establishments, we could not survive. We will be supporting the ‘Eat Independent, Support Local’ campaign all the way.”
Independent food and drink businesses are also crucial to Welsh farmers and growers. Pawel Wisniewski of Paul’s Organic Veg grows fruit and veg on his 17-acre plot outside Abergavenny with his wife and a team of four. He says:
“The independent restaurants we work with, from neighbourhood bistros to Michelin-starred chefs, are a really important part of our business. The contracts we have to supply restaurants in Cardiff and around us here in Monmouthshire give us the security of regular income, which is good for business and for employing staff. With some, we’re planning a year ahead so we can grow specialist varieties just for them. Eating at these independent places supports us and our local team.”
We asked a few more businesses around Wales to share why they want the Welsh public to eat independent this August – and beyond.
Edmund Inkin, The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon:
“Hospitality is a huge recent success story in Wales, and that success is driven largely by family-owned and run restaurants, pubs and cafes. They bring heart to a community and underpin local economies in a way that a chain outlet simply cannot do. By supporting these independent, family-owned business throughout August as part of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, they will have more of a chance of making it through the winter and still being around to make the people of Wales happy next spring.”
Nicola Willis of the Baker’s Table café and bakery in Talgarth Mill is keen for people to understand that supporting local doesn’t just involve the business you are buying from:
“In our case, it involves the mill, the butcher, the greengrocer, the local salad grower, the smokery and charcuterie, as well as the ice-cream maker and the apple juice producers. We know where everything comes from, what everything is made from, and we will go the extra mile to make sure that everything is of top quality to give our customers the best experience. Supporting other local businesses, employing local staff and operating for social rather than economic objectives means that we are truly rooted in our community. That’s what supporting local means to us.”
Natalie Isaac, from The 44 Group which operates restaurants in Cardiff, Penarth, and Cowbridge:
“The 44 group has operated in Wales for 18 years and during that time has employed thousands of apprentices, college leavers, sixth-form students, chefs, admin staff and hospitality professionals. As a company we endeavour to spend money with local, independent suppliers and operators. Our flowers and plants come from the local florist. Our newspapers come from the local newsagent. Our team buy their lunch and coffee in the local independents surrounding the business. Our Christmas party is in a local independent business, always. Our printers, tradespeople, uniform suppliers, taxi companies, beer producers and so many more are all local to us, many family-run businesses like ours. Independent restaurants support the local community, spend in the local community and employ in the local community. They provide a meeting place for great times, sad times and challenging times. Food, drink and atmosphere is our business, but without the community support and interaction, we would not be here.”
Mark Power of The Smoke Haus restaurant in Swansea says that as an independent restaurant owner in Wales, it is vital that his business not only survive, but thrive after this pandemic:
“We source all our produce locally and our whole support network is based in Wales. We all play a vital role in keeping the economy of Wales successful and growing.”
Restaurants and food businesses in Wales can join the ‘Eat Independent Support Local’ campaign online using the hashtag #EatIndieWales and by ordering a window sticker from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words: Kara Jones