On 20 March, London-based food writer Jonathan Nunn launched Vittles, a newsletter for food writers and restaurant employees wondering how to adapt amid the coronavirus lockdown.

As restaurants across the UK closed their doors, Nunn was forced to consider: “If I can’t write about restaurants that are open, what can I write about?”

The restaurant industry in crisis

The COVID-19 shutdown has left hundreds of thousands of restaurant employees laid off or furloughed. Over 135,000 McDonalds staff were out of jobs when the brand closed all 1,270 of its UK restaurants on 23 March. That’s just one fast-food chain.

Food writing during the coronavirus

Nunn’s life as a food writer has changed, too. Before the pandemic, Nunn, who primarily writes for Eater London, went out to restaurants around “20-30 times per week.” When the lockdown began, his ongoing projects were made redundant overnight.

“There’s probably about £2000-3000 of writing that can’t be published—that I’ve already written,” Nunn says. “I’m at peace with that, at the moment.”

With restaurants closed due to coronavirus, food writers will have to adapt.
Restaurants and bars across the UK have closed their doors indefinitely.

Despite government schemes, immediate cash flow is a major concern. Nunn is worried that smaller businesses will not survive. Still, restaurant owners are finding ways to adapt. Many have added delivery and takeout options. In fact, Deliveroo welcomed 3,000 more UK restaurants onto their platform in the past month.

How food writing will adapt

Without restaurants to review, food writing will change during the coronavirus. This, Nunn explains, is not necessarily a bad thing.

An image from the Vittles newsletter: a source of recipes, food writing, and community for writers, chefs, and employees struggling amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Illustration for Vittles by Reena Makwana.

Vittles offers readers practical tips for cooking in isolation. However, telling stories about mainstream restaurant writing is Nunn’s primary goal. For example, the newsletter’s latest posts include an ode to samosas, a guide to Turkish supermarkets, and an anonymous essay from a Greggs employee in the days leading up to the shutdown.

Nunn says this Greggs essay was critical to have in first-person. “I feel those kind of voices—those that are on the front line of the service industry, who get paid the least, whose jobs are the most precarious—are voices you never really hear.”

“This is the kind of writing I’d like to read before all this happened,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *