WHILE the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland has flourished over recent decades, the Covid lockdown and resulting social distancing restrictions have forced many restaurateurs and hospitality owners to rethink the future.
Many hundreds of restaurants and eateries across Northern Ireland are already improvising to adapt to the new reality.
But they have been innovative in creating solutions to ensure the public can still enjoy gastronomic experiences despite the ongoing restrictions.
Now the Irish News is asking the public to nominate their Food Champions in a special readers’ poll being held in association with Food NI and Henderson Foodservice.
It is inviting readers to tell of how your favourite food outlets have gone out of their way during these unprecedented times to ensure you have still been able to avail of a culinary experience.
Normally in this vital period in the run-up to Christmas, pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, which are the lifeblood of our cities, towns and villages, would be buzzing with customers enjoying local hospitality at its finest.
But instead eateries are showcasing their creativity and tenacity by cooking made-to-order meals, packing them in boxes and delivering them to people’s doors.
“Outlets have completely pivoted their businesses to keep going through the pandemic, and these awards will shine a well-deserved light on them,” said Irish News marketing manager John Brolly.
“One way lots of restaurants and bars are supplementing lost income is to create DIY recipe boxes so that diners can whip up their favourite dishes or drinks at home.
“We know that, when it comes to eating experiences, many eateries are continually inventing new solutions and coming up with answers to questions we’ve never had to consider previously.
“These Food Champion awards underline the unique contribution the Northern Ireland hospitality sector makes to our lives.”
Cathal Geoghegan, managing director of Henderson Foodservice, said: “We’re delighted once again to support this fantastic initiative to recognise all the great work and resilience shown by our industry in very challenging times.
“We have witnessed how our customers have evolved and adapted during this time and we are immensely proud of how communities have come together. Good luck to all the nominees.”
Food NI chief executive Michele Shirlow said: “Food experiences have been – and continue to be – created by restaurateurs that everyone can enjoy at home, box delivery schemes have been expanded and virtually every type of food and drink families need to enjoy delicious meals, snacks and food experiences at Christmas are being produced.
“This Food Champions initiative is a tremendous opportunity for the community to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding enterprise of our world class hospitality sector.
“Such a show of support from the community will be of great encouragement to everyone in the sector.
“Companies will appreciate immensely the support and thoughts of people here, and I urge readers to take part in this excellent initiative.”
Every reader who votes between now and the closing date of December 6 will also be in with a chance of winning a meal at their favourite restaurant.
n Go to www.irishnews.com/food for more details.