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Coronavirus: Dinner to go... pop-up feeds growing demand for takeaways in NI

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Alan Higginson and his partner Grainne Maher of the GA GA takeaway food company in Belfast

Alan Higginson and his partner Grainne Maher of the GA GA takeaway food company in Belfast

PA

One of their takeaway roast dinners

One of their takeaway roast dinners

PA

Alan Higginson and his partner Grainne Maher of the GA GA takeaway food company in Belfast

Massive demand for takeaway food represents a break from the doom and gloom of life in lockdown, a pop-up restaurant owner has said.

Consumption has increased by 250% since pandemic restrictions forced the closure of restaurants in March, a survey showed.

Grainne Maher has opened a takeaway within a Belfast city centre cafe serving three-course meals and received dozens of orders last weekend alone.

She said: "People want to be able to see that there are still things to be enjoyed. It is quite doom and gloom if you do not."

She is just starting out amid sweeping coronavirus restrictions, which have paralysed the hospitality industry.

The fitting-out of her new restaurant on the Malone Road was stalled and instead she has been operating a takeaway service from the premises of Panama Cafe with a business partner.

Eateries here have begun selling food for consumption at home amid a pandemic that has wiped out sales and shuttered buildings.

Options range from buying the ingredients and doing most of the preparation at home, to having a meal largely made up.

Ms Maher said: "For a lot of the businesses and friends of ours, it is just a way to try and stay alive and stay afloat. It is not them cashing in. They have huge overheads.

"They are trying to hold on to staff and keep businesses going in order to have something, to try and not close down after putting your heart and soul into something for 10 years.

"It is because people are trying to creatively approach some ways of getting turnover because they have so much riding on it and so many people depending on them."

Ms Maher leaves as little work for the customer as possible. During the last weekend in May the business served a Thai curry with monkfish, chicken or vegetables for a main course, with a starter of risotto and dessert of Eton Mess, a crunchy meringue and whipped cream creation.

By the Friday it had received 60 bookings for Sunday.

She said: "It is something reminiscent of the days when you can go to a restaurant and have this beautifully cooked meal presented to you.

"People still hark for that."

She said it was challenging to have food still looking well by the time it is served.

The hospitality industry has been devastated by the spread of infection and faces major challenges reopening with two-metre social distancing in place.

Belfast Telegraph