British restaurant chain’s textbook example of customer communication during a crisis

COVID-19 is a truly global health and financial crisis. As the West slowly flattens the curve for the first wave of infections, some countries have suffered more than most.

The UK is one of the country’s to have been hit hardest, but steakhouse chain Hawksmoor has been communicating well through a difficult situation.

For businesses unsure how to communicate with their customers, Hawksmoor’s email below serves as an example of best practice for communicators.

We feel awkward. During this crisis, which is affecting so many people in so many different ways we have struggled with the question of how to communicate with you, the people who really bring Hawksmoor to life, or whether we should at all. We’re an oxymoron: a restaurant group without any restaurants. We’d like to stay connected but don’t want to get the message or the tone wrong.

However, after our last couple of emails many of you have been in touch to tell us that you welcomed our occasional contact. For that reason (and perhaps because it genuinely helps us feel more connected to you and to our restaurants), we thought we’d carry on sending a few messages during these strange times. Today we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate our bruised industry and the people who stand behind it, the unsung farmers, fishermen, producers and suppliers in the country.

A definition of hospitality we saw in an old dictionary: “The act of looking after strangers with kindness and generosity.” This industry is often demeaned as something lesser – a short-term fall-back until your real career takes off, a pre-job job – but for thousands of people across the country it’s a real vocation. They all still have the same instincts they had before the world titled on its axis, so it’s no surprise to us that their response to this crisis has been so amazing. Our restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars may be gone for now, but not our desire to feed and take care of people.

Hawksmoor and our staff are in the background involved in various efforts in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, and perhaps in future we’ll tell you more about that, but for the moment we’d just like to take a moment to celebrate everyone in the industry who is doing something large or small to help feed the country’s most vulnerable and frontline workers. There are too many to mention here but great industry responses include #Cook19, #FeedNHS and #MCRFoodInitiative, and there are thousands of individuals volunteering for various causes across the land.

Our thoughts have also been with the many charities the industry supports during ‘peace time’ that are now facing enormous challenges. A key source of support, the hospitality industry, has effectively been switched off at a time when their need is greatest. We thought we’d highlight two of these in case any of you’d like to join us in supporting them during this difficult time.

One of the great tragedies of this lockdown is reduced access to schools for vulnerable children across the country. Magic Breakfast have been working to ensure those children can still access free school meals during school closures and will continue to play this vital role during and after the crisis. You can support them here. In Edinburgh we have been working with Social Bite since we opened, who are currently repurposing their social enterprise to support homeless and vulnerable people and you can support them here. In Manchester Wood Street Mission continue to need support to operate a crisis service to struggling families.

Covid-19 is going to have a catastrophic impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. Action Against Hunger, which Hawksmoor has been proud to support for many years, are working incredibly hard with refugee communities, and those living in the poorest and hardest to reach areas, who are already struggling with diminishing food supplies, limited access to healthcare and severely overcrowded living situations. Solutions like social distancing simply aren’t possible. If you would like to support their urgent Coronavirus Appeal you can do so here.

And finally, many of you have tagged us into your attempts at recreating Hawksmoor at home. Hopefully this is a bit of fun for you, but for us it’s genuinely restorative to see how much Hawksmoor seems to resonate in people’s lives, so thank you for doing so. It won’t surprise you to know that many restaurant suppliers are now struggling. Many of those we’ve worked with since we first opened have morphed into life-long friends. Below we’ve listed out those now offering home delivery so you can continue to play a part in keeping our wonderful industry alive, whilst feeding yourselves and, perhaps, recreate a bit of Hawksmoor in your own homes.

SUPPORTING HOME DELIVERY FROM OUR SUPPLIERS

The key to quality is passion, and below you’ll find produce from some of the most passionate farmers, cheesemongers, fishermen, winemakers and brewers around. We hope you enjoy their wares, and that you and your families continue to be safe and well.

FOOD

Our cattle farmers are too spread out to list and aren’t set up for home delivery, but thankfully have managed to divert a lot of stock to the retail industry. Turner & George, a small butcher’s shop from Hawksmoor chef Richard Turner, is a great option that’s now delivering nationwide, or do of course support your local butcher.

Natoora (seasonal fruit and vegetables)

Neal’s Yard Dairy (the country’s best cheeses)

Estate Dairy (high welfare milk and other dairy)

Brown & Forrest (amazing smoked fish)

Little Bread Pedlar (our favourite bakery, now delivering in London)

Brindisa (lots of Spanish produce)

DRINK

Kicking Horse (our go-to contact for all things beer – you can find Hawksmoor collaborations with Thornbridge and Harbour breweries)

Whisky Exchange (the best selection of spirits in the UK)

Empirical Spirits (a range of experimental spirits from former Noma head of R&D, use code STAYSAFE for free shipping)

Mother Root and Aecorn (our favourite bases for non-alcoholic cocktails)

WINE

Sommeliers Choice (Hawksmoor X Action Against Hunger cases available including charity donation of £1 per bottle)

Les Caves de Pyrennes (The best natural wine supplier in the country by a wonky mile, now offering trade prices on their website so you can see how much we normally pay…)

Bancroft Wines (email Johnny – jpaterson@bancroftwines.com – for a 5% discount)

Matteo Lupi Wines (fine wines at trade prices)

Tiger Vines (California Dreaming essentials, from one of our favourite winemakers Anne Sophie Dubois)