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Could you start by telling us how the last few weeks have been for you?

For the month of May, team MK have taken 1,270 telephone calls, processed over 1,000 transactions for everything from freezer meals, weekend thalis, chutneys, crackers, mango lassi and spice kits to a random can of sliced mango that someone wanted to take home. Our shop and telephone line has served as an information point, counselling service, NHS food delivery point, a place to borrow a bowl of “rice” as the shops were out and a haven for a self-isolating person to drink a cup of chai over a quick chat. We have sent off our home made boxes of happiness to every corner in the UK (sometimes three times to the same address because the courier messed up), personally delivered to many people self-isolating or unable to get out, been part of anniversaries, birthday celebrations, zoom meetings and memorials. We have moved heaven and earth to ensure every order has gone out as though this is something we are sending out for our own friends or family - picking up wine at Albury Vineyard or cheese at Norbury Blue or gin at Silent Pool, writing cards and instructions and special dishes because they will evoke a  special memory. So, it’s been a rollercoaster and we haven’t stopped to take a proper break. I haven’t slept much but every member of our team - be it Sue or Becky, Angie or Sabina, Mahera or Anna have gone above and  beyond to ensure both we and our customers have been kept safe, fed and looked after. 

What positive steps have you taken to get through the lockdown?

Very early on, we decided to make sure that we could take our orders online and put in place a click and collect service for local customers. We also changed the layout of our shop to operate as a counter with a screen to keep customers and staff safe, and put in new offerings such as virtual supper clubs - our weekend thali clubs for example are meant for customers who would have otherwise booked our catering services.

Are there any innovations of which you are particularly proud?

First of all, as a small business owner, I am so, so proud of our team - every single member has worked non-stop to ensure we are able to operate during these difficult times. We are also very proud of having been able to shift to an efficient online system, delivering goods nationwide and our new offerings like the Weekend Thali Clubs.

How have your customers been supporting you during this time?

We have been very humbled by the support of our existing customers who have continued to buy from us - despite technical hiccups in the early days. We have also had a large number of new customers who have become loyal customers and advocates for our food. Many customers have become monthly subscribers so that we can be assured of their continued support on a regular basis; many others have used us for their family celebrations and also recommend us to their friends and family. 

Are there any special measures you’ll be bringing in once you re-open/get back to more normality?

Very early on, we did our Covid risk assessment to make sure that both the staff and our customers could be kept safe. Being a food business, we already have a lot of measures such as hand washing facilities, hand sanitising dispenser and a robust cleaning schedule in place but we've now put in additional features such as extra hand sanitizers for our customers, special cleansers to make sure counters and surfaces and the till are cleaned frequently. We also offer an isolation service drop off and no contact click and collect, just to name a few.

Why is it so important that people ‘Stay Loyal To Local’ going forward?

The recent Covid situation has brought back the importance of community and how important local shops and local businesses are. Customers have seen how important it is to buy seasonal produce and support their local businesses because, as the pandemic highlighted, big supermarkets with huge supply chains struggled at times to cope but smaller local businesses ensured that the shelves were stocked and went out of their way to make sure their customers were supported. With the slow return to normality, it is now vital that this momentum is not lost - not only so we can continue to ensure local jobs and businesses recover but also for environmental reasons.

What’s the best way that our community can do that for now?

The community can do exactly as they have done so for the past 12 weeks! So, use your local shops as much as you can and frequent family run businesses. However, it is not always about buying things - support them on social media, recommend them to friends, comment on their posts and become an ambassador and champion for local and seasonal. 

Tags: ready meals Stay Loyal to Local campaign