By Kiran Paul
HOME delivery is the keyword this Ramadan as iftar meals at dusk have gone virtual in lockdown Britain.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has advised holding “virtual iftars” with extended family and the community via video chat, and asked families to plan their iftar menus in advance with the aim of limiting multiple shopping trips.
“The message for this Ramzan is clear – fast and pray at home and share Ramzan digitally. This is the way to help save lives,” said Harun Khan, secretary general of MCB.
With home delivery services being ramped up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the faithful could get a leg up in preparing for the evening meals.
In fact, suppliers are urging them to make use of the option to avoid contact in food stores and supermarkets.
Zeenat Noon Harnal, director of Bombay Halwa, told Eastern Eye that her company was stepping up its online delivery service.
“We are here to serve and help you, so please do not risk going out, let our food come to you,” she said.
Bombay Halwa, the producer of Indian sweets and savoury mixes under the Royal and Bombay Foods brands, is also offering a special ‘Ramadan box’.
Harnal said the company has maintained supplies and deliveries to all of its customers, both large and small.
“Ramadan is one of the most important periods for us and we plan for it. Like previous years, we have gone from a five-day operation to a six-day week. But we work shorter hours,” she said.
Ramadan promotions in stores will be hard to come by this time as most of the suppliers cancelled them in the wake of pandemic, a leading cash and carry operator specialising in ethnic food said.
However, among the supermarkets, Morrisons has launched a food box of Ramadan essentials which will be delivered direct to customers’ doorsteps.
The box, which includes core staples such as dates and chicken breast fillets and priced from £30, can be ordered online and will be delivered the next day.
“This box contains many of the products that will see Muslims through Ramadan,” said Noor Ali, world foods senior buying manager at the supermarket.
The box is part of a growing selection of food boxes – expected to reach 200,000 a week in the coming weeks – provided by Morrisons during the pandemic.
“Our food boxes are a lifeline for many customers at this difficult time and are providing essential food to people who either cannot leave their home or struggle to reach the supermarket,” Ali added.
People can also benefit from offers from wholesalers, particularly those catering to the foodservice sector, as they are reaching out to the public directly with bars, cafes and restaurants ceasing normal operations due to the lockdown.
JJ Foodservice and Blakemore Foodservice are two such leading foodservice wholesalers who have opened up their inventory to the public.
While JJ has launched a same-day home delivery service in London to supply household essentials, Blakemore announced a new drive-through click and collect service at its Darlaston distribution centre to serve the Midlands.
“Orders placed between midnight and 11am, Monday to Friday, from our Enfield, Dagenham and Sidcup branches will be received on the same day. It’s the fastest we’ve ever delivered,” said Sedat Kaan Hendekli, who is head of operations at JJ Foodservice.
The wholesaler has already been offering a next-day delivery service from its 11 depots across the country.
Hendekli added that the firm would not place restrictions on online ordering, unlike many supermarkets which insist on in-store purchase of most food items despite the ongoing situation.
“Some supermarkets can only fulfil 10 per cent of orders. We can fulfil 100 per cent and can do it in record time,” he said.
JJ has a new ‘household essentials’ category featuring more than 300 items for homes, providing smaller pack sizes of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats alongside other key grocery products.
Blakemore Foodservice, a division of leading SPAR distributor AF Blakemore & Son, offers about 200 product lines, including store cupboard essentials, chilled and frozen food, and fresh meat and produce boxes, in its new service which began on April 15.
People can order ‘family-size’ quantities of these items through a dedicated website, and orders placed before 3pm will be ready for next-day collection from Monday to Saturday, it said.
“Our next-day click and collect service provides a quick and easy alternative to supermarket queues and waiting weeks for online deliveries. Customers don’t even have to leave their cars – we’ll load their goods for them,” said Caoire Blakemore, head of Blakemore Foodservice.
Customers are offered one-hour time slots while placing orders online, and their orders will be ready on their arrival at the depot, Blakemore added. The minimum order requirement is £50, and collection slots are available Monday to Friday from 8am to 7pm, and on Saturday from 8am to 12pm.