Restaurants, pubs, bars and food producers have been significantly hit by the lockdown, with two shutdowns, radical changes to the way they operate and a controversial 10pm curfew.

And while they need significant support from the government, we can all do our bit to keep them afloat.

So as they prepare to head back into lockdown, here are five ways you can help.

1. Takeaways

Let’s start with the obvious. Plenty of places will be closing their doors, but will be open for takeaways and deliveries.

For many, the shake-up to their business was significant, with different working practices used, new menus introduced and delivery systems set up.

Now, though, several months down the line, they are more accustomed to what it entails and many have found it to be a successful revenue stream away from their core business.

If you’re a fan of eating out, or just don’t fancy cooking, why not treat yourself to a takeaway from somewhere down the road?

And for a special occasion, some restaurants, including Benedicts in Norwich and Socius in Burnham Market, have introduced ‘at home’ meal kits to recreate the fine dining experience.

2. Vouchers

Since the first lockdown, many businesses have launched voucher schemes, enabling customers to pay for a meal or experience now and use it down the line, when the rules are eased.

When we asked restaurant owners how customers could best support them in lockdown, the majority said vouchers would make the biggest difference.

Hannah Springham, at Farmyard in Norwich and the Dial House in Reepham, agreed the most valuable help would be through vouchers.

Not only does it have an instant impact for the business, but it gives the buyer something to look forward to - so they’re certainly worth considering for any upcoming birthdays or occasions.

3. Shop local

It’s not just the name you know and love that’s being affected.

When restaurants and pubs close, hundreds of suppliers - from cheese and meat to beer - are left with no work and leftover stock.

In March, the Lenwade-based Cheese Shed sold its products to the public after it was left with surplus goods when its customers, largely restaurants and cafés, shut.

We all know it’s easy and quick to nip to the supermarket, but instead, try to shop local where you can. Order from the butchers for a Sunday roast, or nip to the fishmongers.

Order a vegetable box, find a local cheesemonger or visit a farm shop to stock up on essentials.

You’ll be making a measurable difference to those business owners, but when you spend local more of your money stays in the wider Norfolk economy.

According to research by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, for every £1 spent at an independent business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a national or international retailer.

4. Social media

Not everyone has money to spare given the current circumstances. But another way of helping hospitality businesses is to support them on social media.

Likes, shares, retweets and follows not only help restaurants build their following and customer base, but give them greater exposure and could in turn lead to orders from other first-timers.

5. Show your gratitude - and don’t forget come December

This is arguably the most challenging time most business owners will have to weather, and we know some may not survive the coming months.

They and their teams are doing what they can to make it work, so show them your gratitude and let them know what they mean to the community. It might be a message, letter or email, or a glowing review on their social media pages.

One restaurant owner told us messages of support mean more than the sender might think.

And, most importantly, don’t forget about them come December. They’ll need our help to get through the next few weeks, but it won’t stop there, and the rest of winter looks set to be challenging.

If we’d like a vibrant, lively independent business scene, we must support it.

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