Olive Magazine
Berthas pizza

21 ways restaurants changed for good

Published: March 29, 2021 at 1:19 pm

We look at the big and small businesses building a new-found community focus into their plans for 2021 and beyond

For the many chefs, owners and restaurant teams who stepped up to feed those in need, from frontline NHS workers to Britain’s homeless, their charitable work was a watershed: a moment of realisation that the hospitality industry is uniquely well positioned to offer assistance to vulnerable groups and how that boosts staff morale. In ways, big and small, progressive businesses are now trying to build outreach work into their future plans. The pandemic peak has passed, but these 21 acts of kindness and solidarity show how food’s new-found community focus will reverberate in 2021 and beyond.


See how many of our restaurants have reinvented due to lockdown here. After, check out our guide to the UK’s best gastro pubs with rooms.


“Fuel your future” initiative, Nandos

Last August, chicken chain Nando’s launched FYF to support young people who struggle to get a start in life. It has since distributed around 20,000 free meals and FYF’s skills mentoring wing hopes to get 200 young people from marginalised groups into employment at Nando’s this year.


Alchemilla's Real-life recipes, Alchemilla, Nottingham

Chef Alex Bond, from Nottingham’s Alchemilla, has been creating recipe cards and video tutorials for the Creative Education Trust’s schools, to inspire families in receipt of the £15-a-week free school meals vouchers with their cooking.

Chefs for life, Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, Edinburgh

Edinburgh's pandemic-born Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts keeps furloughed chefs busy cooking food for those in need, its emphasis firmly on solidarity, not charity.

Empty Kitchens

Feel-good meals, Pony & Trap, Bristol

The Michelin-starred Pony & Trap will reopen as a community-focussed foundation this year, but a new scheme, Nourish, will see chef-owner Josh Eggleton offer free meals across all his seven Bristol restaurants, to people referred by partner charities: “I feel you can almost heal people through food and being around others. I have the resources to offer that. If you can help, you should.” Meanwhile, at dining co-op, Breaking Bread, Team Canteen is making ready-meals (£10.40 for two), which fund the production of meal packages for Bristolians facing food vulnerability.

Click & collect masterstroke, Bertha’s Pizza, Bristol

Since Christmas, Bertha’s Pizza has been creating collaboration pies with Bristol restaurants including Box-E and Wilson’s, which are only available for collection. Using the money it is saving on delivery fees (an ongoing bugbear at Bertha’s), it then donates £5 for every order over £25 to FareShare. In February, Bertha’s had already funded 4,000 meals.


Cumbrian comrades, Simon Rogan, Barrow

Demand at Barrow Food Bank has shot up 280%. After a first £2,587 fundraiser, star chef Simon Rogan’s venues have committed to an annual appeal.

Plant-based progress, Wild Thing, Cardiff

Cardiff pay-what-you-can vegan brunch café, Wild Thing produced 11,000 free meals during the pandemic. In reviving its volunteer-run community suppers or launching free nutrition and cooking workshops, this Living Wage employer will soon push on in numerous impressive ways.

Wild Thing

Crucial match, Cornerstone, London

Despite hospitality's volatility, chef Tom Brown felt it vital his restaurant, Cornerstone, become a sponsor at community club, Hackney Wick FC. Founder, Bobby Kasanga, says Tom, is “an inspiration, instrumental to helping change lives in the area”.

Core values, Core, London

Clare Smyth made headlines in January after bagging three Michelin stars. In the same month, her London restaurant Core cooked for NHS staff (the Big Thank You Burger with neighbours Eggslut), and will continue to support several local charities.

Core by Clare Smyth

National reach, local engagement, Dishoom

Dishoom has worked with charity partners since 2015. As its restaurants expand to Edinburgh (Social Bite), Manchester (Emmie’s Kitchen) and Birmingham (Northfield Food Service, Let’s Feed Brum), it’s rolling out sites and a sensibility, too

Cooking up positivity, Jikoni, London

Every Jikoni Comfort & Joy meal box sold (from £22) funds a dish for Nishkam SWAT, the London charity taking the Sikh concept of the langar, or community kitchen, onto the streets. Jikoni’s team also cooks monthly for SWAT. “Nishkam SWAT is really inspiring,” says owner, Ravinder Bhogal. “Also, my team had been worried. Furloughed. At home. To bring people back to do something really positive, I think was important.”

Jikoni meal box

Long-term commitment, Soul Kitchen, Chester

A hot topic during first lockdown, the need to feed the street homeless and those in temporary accommodation (many with no cooking facilities) has not abated. In Chester and Ellesmere Port, food venues including Atina Kitchen, Da Noi and Meltdown are firmly committed to supporting local charity, Soul Kitchen. “You can’t be preachy about it,” says Sticky Walnut owner, Gary Usher. “But when you think how easy it is for restaurants to cook for their communities, it’s a no-brainer.”

Feasting for all, Curry Club, London

For Matt Doran, co-founder of the London hospitality workers’ coalition, Curry Club, eating out is increasingly “detached from the reality of the way most people live. I work full-time and feel I can’t afford to eat out often. What chance do people with food insecurity have?” Curry Club’s initial fundraising will create meals for Islington food aid projects but, with chefs like Stevie Parle and Meera Sodha signed up, it also hopes to host free restaurant events for people excluded from high street venues. “We should afford people some luxury, whether great produce, an experience or simply one night not cooking,” says Matt. “We need to nurture the souls of people and communities.” Missy Flynn, Curry Club volunteer and co-founder of the now closed Rita’s, is looking to embed similar values in her next venture: “Now feels like the time to consider ways we can open a restaurant that feeds sustainably into community work, but it requires guests’ support.”

Missy Flynn

Job club, Grub, Manchester

Manchester food market, GRUB, recently launched School of Grub, a free six-week online course on breaking into street food, which it hopes to roll out to other councils and markets, alongside a mentoring programme that includes discounted kitchen space, equipment and free pitches. Grub may unearth some gems in these new traders but co-founder Jason Bailey insists “that wasn’t our first thought”. Grub wanted to “pull some people out of unemployment. We want to help the local community bounce back”.

Slice of support, Yard Sale Pizza, London

London’s Yard Sale Pizza is distributing vouchers to kids who need a treat, via local schools.

Yard Sale Pizza

Community cooking, Whatley Manor, Cotswolds

From a Pancake Day Zoom class for a local school, to baking Valentine’s cakes for a nearby care home, Niall Keating’s team at Wiltshire’s Whatley Manor are reaching out in novel ways and hope to expand that volunteering.

Skills boost, Heaney's, Cardiff

As well as raising donations around sales of Heaney’s Cardiff dine-at-home meals, Great British Menu finalist Tommy Heaney is creating one-pot cookery videos to help clients of homelessness charity, Llamau, eat well in difficult circumstances. “Everyone,” says Tommy, “needs a safe space.”

Tommy Heaney

Online appeal, Wright & Bell's, London

Staff at London’s Wright & Bell venues, including LINO are raising funds for StreetSmart by sharing recipes on its social media channels. Such “solidarity and humanity was never more needed”, says managing director, Sarah Clark.

Get one, give one, Carousel, London

Indian superstar chef Saransh Goila’s butter chicken has landed in London at food space, Carousel, where it will support homeless charity, the Felix Project. On set dates, for every meal sold (from £19.50; goilabutterchicken.co.uk), the kitchen will cook a curry for a donation. The restaurant world is beset with problems but, ultimately, says Carousel director, Ed Templeton: “That’s nothing compared to sleeping rough when it’s -2C outside.”

Butter Chicken

Staying the course, Oxo Tower, London

Having cooked thousands of meals for the charities StreetSmart and Streets Kitchen, London’s Oxo Tower will continue its “community kitchen” work after it reopens.

Street eats, Ormer Mayfair, London

Ormer Mayfair has donated more than 2,500 meals to homelessness charity, Charity Begins at Home, and fully intends to continue that support.

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