Wigan cafe praised for keeping going as hospitality faces severe challenges

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The Little Kitchen, in The Galleries Shopping Centre, started running a delivery service in January as food and drink businesses continue to face tight lockdown restrictions.

Established in its Woodcock Square premises 12 months ago, the business led by Lisa and Ryan Cunliffe says it has enjoyed particular success offering vegetarian and vegan options alongside food suitable for those on keto and other diets.

Concerns have been regularly aired in the borough about the future for hospitality businesses, with many having to open and shut their doors due to the Covid-19 restrictions and complaints about the inadequacy of Government support.

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And despite the promising take-up for the first week of deliveries The Little Kitchen said its new venture required considerable thinking about and does not substantially change the difficult position it and similar businesses are in.

Lisa Cunliffe at The Little Kitchen in Woodcock SquareLisa Cunliffe at The Little Kitchen in Woodcock Square
Lisa Cunliffe at The Little Kitchen in Woodcock Square

Lisa said: “I did a lot of research beforehand and found there isn’t much of a market for vegetarian and vegan food as well as for people on alternative diets.

“The vegan community just want some comfort food so we’re doing tower burgers and things which are basically treats.

“We’re also doing keto salads, grilled chicken and things like that.

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“We had to close for the lockdown in November. We were absolutely convinced we would be able to open for a couple of weeks over Christmas and were devastated and heartbroken when we couldn’t.

Wigan Today is currently running the We Are Wigan campaignWigan Today is currently running the We Are Wigan campaign
Wigan Today is currently running the We Are Wigan campaign

“We had to do something because we didn’t know if any support would come from the Government. We just had to keep going.

“We got a great response to the research we did over December and at the beginning of January decided to try this.

“If we can do what we did in the first week every week we may just keep afloat. It has given us a new lease of life but the situation is just horrendous.”

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The current outlook for businesses like The Little Kitchen may remain precarious but The Galleries’ leadership has been impressed by the cafe’s tenacity.

Centre manager Simon Tucker said: “There’s little doubt that this third lockdown is extremely difficult for our tenants, who like all retailers lost much of their Christmas trading period.

“The Little Kitchen team has worked tirelessly to find ways of offering their service as safely as possible and the introduction of a delivery service has enabled them to keep going.

“This positive attitude will leave them well placed when they can finally open their doors again.”

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The Little Kitchen has teamed up with Wigan Eats to arrange the orders, with anyone wanting to buy a delivery needing to go on the app.

The business may have been given a boost by the popularity of Veganuary, which each year sees many people pledging to ditch meat and dairy for the month of January.

Wigan town centre food businesses have faced a particularly tough time with the lack of footfall affecting customer numbers.

The Courtyard, in Jaxons Court, had to axe its first attempt at keeping going without customers actually coming through the doors in December, though it has now begun offering meals to eat at home once again.

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