The managing director of a leading catering firm says he is hopeful that Cumbria’s hospitality sector will improve quicker than the rest of the UK.

Caterite Food and Wine Service lost 75 per cent of its trade overnight as the Government ordered its major customers, including hotels and schools, to close. This week, it has been forced to make 25 people from its 174-strong workforce redundant.

The firm’s group managing director Lorcan Byrne said: “This is as a direct result of the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. It was a heart-breaking decision, but one which has protected 145 jobs. We had no other option.

“The hospitality industry has been significantly impacted and while our successful click and collect service and fantastic support from the general public has allowed us to keep the wheels of the business turning, it has only partially replaced our lost trade.”

Within days of the Government announcing that the UK was in lockdown, Caterite changed its business model and launched the click and collect service at its Embleton base, near Cockermouth.

Since then, thousands of people have used the service, but the firm had to furlough the majority of its employees as most of its traditional clients closed their doors.

Mr Byrne added: “This has been a challenging few months for many businesses, but we are confident that Caterite will continue to employ in excess of 100 local people, support our local families, communities and businesses and play our part in helping Cumbria get back up and running sooner rather than later.

“Estimations we have received from the Federation of Wholesale Distributors say the return to normal trade could take up to 12 months across the country.

"We are part of a UK-wide buying group and the impact on Cumbria is different to other areas.

“I am optimistic that we will recover quicker here. Hospitality businesses are starting to reopen and the demand for staycations will increase – the Lake District is the ideal place to visit, once we are allowed to.

“We hope that Lake District and our 19 million visitors return quicker than expected to support the hospitality sector and the upturn allows us to bring furloughed employees and those we have been forced to release back into the business, plus recruit again ahead of our forecasted expectations.”

Caterite's click and collect service sees people order online and then visit the Embleton base, where staff open their vehicle's boot and place the goods inside to reduce contact as much as possible.

The service is designed to help the vulnerable and the elderly, parents at home with children and those self-isolating and encourage social distancing. The business plans to continue the service when the crisis ends.