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Virtual Food Festival: The Thriving Online Culinary Community

By May 29, 2020No Comments

“There is something joyful about watching food come to life on screen and to know that others are tuning in to the same event”

– Morgan Lawrence, The Telegraph

The Virtual Food Festival (VFF) has been a runaway success. Since it launched on 13th April, it has been met with high praise in the press, an explosion on social media and a queue of celebrity chefs and foodies eager to get involved. The VFF is a shining example of innovation triumphing over adversity, and it proves that even in the toughest of times, there are opportunities – if you’ve got the right support.

What is the Virtual Food Festival?

The Virtual Food Festival is a food channel and series of online events where celebrity chefs and food experts like Rick and Jack Stein and Angela Hartnett showcase quality ingredients from local, sustainable suppliers. In the schedule of live cooking demonstrations, top chefs share their expert recipes and tips using their favourite ingredients, which viewers can then order online to enjoy restaurant-standard food in their own homes.

In short, the VFF brings the best chefs and the best ingredients direct to your kitchen – the cooking part is up to you!

“We are promoting businesses, helping people learn how to cook and having some fun along the way”

– Ross Geach, Padstow Kitchen Garden

Where did the Virtual Food Festival come from?

In the wake of the Coronavirus lockdown and the halt of the hospitality industry, food suppliers found themselves with nowhere to sell their fresh produce. Many producers have a poor online presence, so selling direct to consumers was a big fish to fry (so to speak). Ross Geach of Padstow Kitchen Garden had the idea to connect people and food, by creating an online community that promotes businesses, quality food and cooking all at the same time. Ross pitched his idea to Jack Stein, Chef Director at Rick Stein restaurants, who was eager to get involved.

“Whilst our restaurants are closed, and we’re not able to buy from our brilliant suppliers, we help to showcase their great produce so that customers can order directly from them.”

– Jack Stein, Rick Stein Restaurants

To make his idea a reality, Ross approached the geeks at Solve to put the ‘virtual’ into the Virtual Food Festival. Our chief pixel pusher, Lawrence, knew that this project could really help local food producers nationwide get through Covid-19. And as a B Corp, we always put people and planet before profit, so it was a perfect fit for us. Solve whole-heartedly donated time and resources to help bring the idea to fruition and support the local community – we’re all in this together after all.

Solve had the website and social real estate live in a matter of days, and we are providing hosting and on-going maintenance free of charge. But that isn’t where our involvement ends. As a founding member of the VFF, Solve is a driving force behind the blossoming future of the festival.

“The Virtual Food Festival is an example of how in these crazy times, an idea can be turned into reality quickly to help support the community.”

– Lawrence Harmer, Solve

Why is the Virtual Food Festival important?

In the current climate, independent food producers like farmers, growers, butchers and fishermen, who would have sold their products into the hospitality industry, have excess stock. And people are at home with extra time and desire to cook, but they need ingredients.

The VFF is the missing link in the chain, connecting people and food.

The VFF promotes local food suppliers online and provides them with an avenue to sell their high-quality produce. And at the same time, it entertains the people at home, helping them find their love of food and giving them access to restaurant-standard food while promoting healthier, more sustainable eating.

The festival is even raising money for charities like The National Emergencies Trust (NET) and St Petrocs Society through donations, competitions and exclusive front row seats.

“The Virtual Food Festival is a force for good. Everyone involved benefits in some way –  suppliers, chefs, food lovers, charities and even the environment”– Lawrence Harmer, Solve

What impact has the Virtual Food Festival had?

The Virtual Food Festival is still in its early stages, but its impact on food suppliers has been profound. St Enodoc Asparagus, a small but renowned grower of asparagus based in St Minver, normally sells their produce to discerning chefs across Cornwall and beyond. They were deeply affected by the Coronavirus restrictions, but their involvement with the VFF and presentation from chefs like Jack Stein “has saved their season”.

Last week of St Enodoc Asparagus! We have been very lucky and blessed with all the support we have had that has saved...

Posted by St Enodoc Asparagus on Sunday, 10 May 2020

Not only has their exposure from the festival opened up their restaurant-quality produce to the general public, it’s also created new wholesale links with the likes of Mitch Tonks who has seen people queuing up (social distancing observed) to buy St Enodoc Asparagus at his Rockfish restaurant in Brixham.

The VFF has exploded online and continues to have a growing audience. The website, which was set up by Solve, received 3.5k visits within the first 24 hours of launching, and they saw 660 YouTube subscribers in one day, with over 10k views in less than a week. On social media, their posts are reaching over 90k people organically, with over 1.7k impressions daily.

The VFF has also raised over £3000 for charity. Check out the Crowdfunder page.

Why has the Virtual Food Festival been so successful?

The VFF shows that even in challenging situations, you can succeed if you adapt and innovate. And with the restrictions of Coronavirus, the online marketplace presents significant opportunities.

Although lots of businesses are feeling the pinch, internet usage is soaring and sales for businesses that offer home delivery are booming. Online food sales, for example, are up by almost 25%. And online orders for home and leisure products are up by as much as 200% compared to last year.

Check out our SEO update for further details on COVID-19 online trends.

What is the future of the Virtual Food Festival?

There’s still lots to come for the VFF. The next step in the journey of the festival is launching the Virtual Food Market where all the delicious produce that’s showcased in the festival can be purchased quickly and easily, all in one place.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (ha!). Watch this space for more culinary creativity, foodie features and veggie ventures.

An example of online success

The VFF shows that with innovation, tenacity, the opportunities of the internet and the right techy support, anything’s possible.

Could you take your business online? The web geeks at Solve are here to help your business grow even in these exceptional times. In fact, as well as our regular SEO and web design services, we’ve created a suite of support products to help businesses get through COVID-19, from simple e-commerce shops to video integration.

Give us a call today to find out how we can help take your business online.

Or if you’d like to know more about the Virtual Food Festival, subscribe to the YouTube channel or connect on Instagram and Facebook.

The Virtual Food Festival in the press

The best virtual food festivals to stream at home this season – The Telegraph

Virtual festival a real success – Business Cornwall

Virtual Food Festival partners with Crowdfunder – Business Cornwall

Top chefs heading second Virtual Food Festival – Business Cornwall

Jack Stein & Ross Geach Launch Virtual Food Festival – Pirate FM

Jack Stein and Ross Geach to launch virtual food festival on Monday – The Caterer

Rick Stein Restaurants streams first live virtual food festival – Boutique Hotelier

Case Study: Solve – Oxford Innovation

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