This week, as foodies scramble to realign their offerings with the 'new normal', I speak to another talented bunch, about how they and their businesses are coping with the ongoing global crisis.
THE FOOD BOX
Erica Sheehan started her Homespun business at Brid Carter's Honest to Goodness Farmers' Market in Glasnevin and now her quinoa granolas are sold in Selfridges, Harrods, SuperValu, Avoca, plus Spinney's in Dubai and Ocado.
After university, the mother of two worked at TV3 and later in PR with Coca-Cola.
"I got to work with very smart, creative people but my heart wasn't in it," she said. "Deep down, I wanted to immerse myself in a small food business and nurture my interest in nutrition. I was and am very influenced by cult healthy food blogs and would have recreated a lot of recipes adding my own nutritious twist. I always liked granola and started experimenting, that's how I created Quinoa Crunch. It's gluten, wheat and refined-sugar free and high in fibre, vitamin E and magnesium."
NIKITA McCRORY & SEANY McKENNA StreatSchool, Co Monaghan
Having worked their way through 20 countries over five years, Seany McKenna and his fiancee Nikita McCrory returned to Glaslough, Co Monaghan, fired up by the rising global street-food scene and set up their Blasta Street Kitchen food-truck concept in 2017. It took off and they quickly realised the endless possibilities. However, never was the timing more opportune than now, with so many food businesses, pubs, hotels and restaurants looking to add a food truck to get their food out there.
"After the success of Blasta Street Kitchen in its first three years, it was nominated for Best Emerging Franchise," said Seany. "We were approached by potential franchisees, but, after meeting 30 people over the past couple of years, we decided against it."
However, the couple had a lightbulb moment, spotting a gaping hole in the market for a street-food consultancy that could help others set up their own concepts. So, last year, StreatSchool was born.
Now, Seany and Nikita design, manufacture and sell bespoke food trailers and mobile kitchens. They also provide services which include branding, design, menu planning and costing, staff training, supply chain management. Everything that's needed to GET YOUR EATS TO THE STREETS.
They've been working with many prominent food companies, including Silver Hill Farm who supply duck all over the world.
Seany said: "Enterprise Ireland have recognised StreatSchool as a high potential start-up and we've also been successful in raising private investment for our latest venture." streatschool.com
Eileen Dunne and her husband Stefano Crescenzi changed the face of Italian dining in Ireland with their hugely successful Dunne & Crescenzi restaurants operating in South Frederick Street, Dundrum; Sandymount and the Kildare Outlet Village.
"A major hurdle facing restaurateurs is how to create a remarkable dining experience within the realm of sanitisers, floor markings, signage, masked waiters - a contactless service, without the risk of creating a Bunuelian scenography. Or perhaps that is the way to go, a totally new and bizarre dining experience," says Eileen, who is going all out to pamper their customers with treats.
Eileen was in Rome when restaurants reopened there and says diners quickly became used to the new practices. "The new normal is waiters wearing elegant masks, and we sought out restaurants that appeared to be the most compliant."
Government support in terms of subsidising salaries has been fundamental in keeping businesses active. However, restaurateurs, she says, would like our new Government to engage with insurance companies and force some form of compensation or gesture.
"We have to navigate through reservations, but it will be very difficult to refuse a 'regular' a table, someone who has supported us for 20 years," she says. "Staff are the other half of D&C, and we are conscious of their needs, too. On the other hand, we are fortunate to have extensive front terrace areas and we foresee a renewed interest in dining al fresco.
"We must confront our concerns and responsibilities until the old normal returns. One day at a time, such is the life of a restaurant owner."
The Dunraven Arms Hotel in beautiful Adare, Co Limerick, is a bastion of top-notch service and good food. Louis and Hugh Murphy have welcomed many famous names down the years from Princess Anne to Michel Roux, to countless Hollywood stars.
Louis says they were delighted to open their doors again to all their loyal guests and are grateful to the staff for their hard work implementing all the Covid-19 protocols.
"We knew the priority for guests would be safety above anything else," said Louis.
When the lockdown closures hit, they had just completed a major refurbishment of 40 rooms, with beautiful mahogany floors, magnificent leather sofas, separate dressing rooms and walk-in showers, and these rooms lend themselves perfectly to many of the requirements for the cleaning processes.
"We are fortunate to be a member of Original Irish Hotels - a collection of owner-run hotels in outstanding locations around the country that offer a unique service and value for our staycation market. However, I worry for September onwards, when schools return and the domestic market reduces greatly.
"With the inevitable long-term loss of the overseas and corporate markets for 2020, I hope the supports, including the TWSS scheme, will continue throughout the winter season, otherwise I fear for the viability of many businesses. It's very important that the VAT rate is reduced to stimulate more business into the autumn/winter season.
"Another concern is support for Shannon Airport, with the loss of United Airlines for this year and potentially other airlines. We on the West Coast depend on Shannon Airport to bring in corporate business, golfers who come to play some of the best links courses in the world, and visitors who want to experience the Wild Atlantic Way. It's so important our Government recognises this and gives the required support."