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Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Wednesday 07 October 2020

The Producer
In 2015, Mags Riordan embraced edible flowers as a serious commercial crop at her organic Bumblebee Flower Farm in Drimoleague, Co Cork.

"2020 was to be my year!" says Mags. "It was the culmination of hard work over the previous seven/eight years. Order books were full with weddings, edible mixes for wedding and celebration cakes, and we were about to start our first harvest for restaurants and chefs.
"When lockdown was announced, everything was wiped out. That sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the emails cancelling or postponing filled my inbox was one of the most terrifying moments I had. My flowers still needed to be harvested, the natural growing cycle didn't stop because of Covid-19."

Mags knew she had to pivot quickly and took to Twitter to explain that she was swimming in flowers and could deliver nationwide. "The outpouring of support was unbelievable, and overnight my business was transformed. I turned a crop largely destined as an edible one to online bouquet deliveries. Prior to February, my market was very local; now over 90pc of my business is online."

She knew the return of imported flowers could impact her fledgling business, but she says she needn't have worried - the support is still there and growing. She's now offering online workshops, with ingredients shipped to your door, full accompanying tutorials and Facebook live support with Q&A sessions.

"What seemed like a complete disaster back in March has blossomed into a diverse business, where my location is no longer a restricting factor. Never give up. It's in your hands whether you're the driver or the passenger."

The Takeaway
After 15 years as a navigator in the Indian Navy, Vinod Parary moved to Dublin to manage operations with Asheesh Dewan's Jaipur restaurant group, which he did for a decade.
In 2015, with his wife Shameera in charge of nutrition and food quality, he opened Masala, a takeaway at Killiney Shopping Centre with an open kitchen serving high-end restaurant quality food. It was an instant success.

However, they, too, were affected by Covid-19. "When lockdown was announced, business took a real hit," says Vinod. "We closed for two weeks for staff safety and morale but then, reducing working hours and staff, we were back serving food, complying with all safety norms. Corporate business stopped completely, and the cost of purchases rose due to a food supply chain crisis."
They streamlined their business, putting more resources on their website and online ordering platform with a contactless delivery system. They also introduced a chilled food menu to freeze at home.

"Although the number of orders has increased, consumer spending has come down. A global recession is now a real possibility - even the Irish economy is looking less healthy day by day. Brexit and Covid uncertainty will mean a challenging year ahead. Consumer confidence will be tested. SMEs are the backbone of any real economy and are facing a revenue shortfall. SMEs need more grants, not loans, to run their day-to-day business. The Government should reduce the VAT rate to 9pc for at least one year."

"It's the universal truth that if people have more money in hand, they can spend more in the local economy. Employer PRSI contributions reduction should also be considered."

The Restaurant
John Healy is not only the bubbling maitre d' you see on TV's The Restaurant, he's also the debonair general manager of the superb Suesey Street restaurant, with the best terrace in town, in the heart of Georgian Dublin. John also wrote a book about his heart transplant a few years ago.

"Our core business is made up of local regulars. Our staffing level normally stands around 30 people, full and part-time, and we rely on corporate bookings and weddings in our private venue No25 next door. When the first lockdown was thrust upon us, we lost €40,000 in bookings already made for March and April…”

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First Published In The Sunday Independent