Island food businesses are working hard to remain in operation, in the face of the global crisis.
Changed opening hours and changed ways of providing goods have been options for some, with an increased online presence, remote shopping and pre-order delivery chosen by some food providers to keep their customers.
The Good Food Boutique on Cromwell Street in Stornoway is offering a pre-order service for all goods, including coffee and sandwiches. Customers can pay over the phone and collect quickly in the shop or even request that the purchases are taken out to the car!
They said: “We are of course keeping up with our usual hygiene practices but have added extra measures to keep contact surfaces clean and free from contamination including door handles and countertops. Please support your local businesses where you can!”
Hebridean Tea Store in Stornoway is to remain open in their Cromwell Street store, but owner Sabine Weiten has moved to reassure customers that hygiene and health are at the top of their considerations.
She said: “Washing our hands thoroughly with soap and water was always normal to us and we do it very frequently. We are cleaning all surfaces on a regular base with appropriate sprays and disinfectants and always have done. So, simply continue what we already were doing.
“We are thinking of setting up a pay-by-phone service where you can pre-order, pay and then pick up from the shop. You can also order via the website, of course, and then pick up. This way we will reduce the personal contact to a minimum.”
The Veggie Box says: "For the moment we hope to carry on as usual, whilst adding in a couple of alternatives and precautions. The main precautions will be regular use of disposable gloves, sanitiser and hand washing at all stages of the process, from setting up the stall to delivery.
"For any one concerned about coming to the stall we will continue to deliver/arrange delivery throughout Lewis and potentially Harris, if you are needing anything else brought to you at the same time just let the shop know and we can pick it up for you and deliver it along with your veg, we are more than happy to help in whatever way we can.
"If you are also concerned about using cash either at the stall or via delivery then please let us know and we can give you our account details so that you can pay online, if anyone is unsure of this process again let us know and we can chat it through with you, again we will be very flexible with this.
Croft 36 in Northton, Harris had already taken some precautions ahead of their proposed season opening next Monday (23 March). The roadside shed ‘shop’ has been fitted with hand-cleansing facilities and will be deep-cleaned each day when stock sells out, but customers are also being asked to allow the previous customer to leave before entering and to wear the disposable gloves provided.
Crofter Julie is also offering deliveries within the local area and simplifying the menu to allow for the difficulty of sourcing ingredients. One-pot meat and vegan meals, fish pie and bakery goods can be taken out to local residents and those staying in holiday accommodation.
In Ness the Old Barn Bar is continuing to operate as usual until told otherwise, but the season opening of the Cross Inn Restaurant, due on 27 March, is to be postponed until the pandemic has passed.
Proprietors Alice Bagley and Duncan Phillips said: “In the meantime we are working on Cross Inn Meals on Wheels. We hope to be able to offer hot meals and larder items for takeaway and delivery from early next week. Stay tuned for menus and operating hours.”
In Callanish Mollans Café has consulted environmental health advice and arranged to operate a carry-out to the car service for pre-ordered food.
Proprietor Julie Child said: “You will still be able to get our fabulous food but you just won't have to walk through a shared airspace in which to get served. Trying to effectively deep-clean a cafe where people are in and out is near on impossible.”
Announcements were made on Monday evening (March 17th) that Stornoway’s Artizan Café and Harbour Kitchen Restaurant were closing.
Leelah and Lach at the Harbour Kitchen said: “We have taken the very sad decision to close Harbour Kitchen. We feel the health and safety of our team and guests has to be our primary focus at this time and in these difficult circumstances. We are looking at different options on how best to support our team. We are also waiting for more information from the government on how we go forward.”
Artizan café said: “We have a very small and closely-knit staff and customer base and we do not wish to compromise the health of anyone who either works in or visits Artizan or indeed the lives of their loved ones.
“Stay safe everyone and be mindful of each other and support our small fragile community. We need to pull together now more than ever before and return our islands back to a prosperous community for everyone. There is no better place in the world to be and we should all be very proud where we live.”