McWhinney’s Boss on how we can get back to a ‘new’ normal
By Austen Dack
Recently I took time out to discuss the Covid-19 situation with the King of Sausages Kevin McWhinney. His family have been producing high quality Irish pork sausages since 1898!
Kevin has recently battled illness himself so knows what it means to be in total lock down!
Austen: Hi Kevin how have things been at McWhinney’s since the lock down?
Kevin: It’s been unbelievable. We went from making and delivering hundreds of thousands of sausages a day to fish and chip shops (via wholesalers) to almost nothing overnight. We always produce at full speed here at McWhinney HQ, so we were left with plenty of stock and no orders.
Austen: How has that affected your staff?
Kevin: Our staff are very loyal to us and a very big part of what makes our product so good. I protected them on full pay, with the aid of furlough, until such a time we move back up to full capacity again. We are now working again with a skeleton staff as shops start to open to ensure availability for shops across the UK – we stand ready and able to restock shops again.
Austen: How was the bank in helping with your bridge loan to help fund this payment for staff etc?
Kevin: Not great. I had to assume I was going to pay all of our suppliers and staff for three months and assume no one would pay McWhinneys (worst case scenario). This was a large sum to borrow at a very uncompetitive rate.
Austen: What have you done at the factory in order to guarantee the safety of your staff?
Kevin: Many things. We have taped off areas in the factory to ensure the correct distancing measures are in place. In the canteen one person only uses a table and staff breaks have been split for additional safety. We have even set up a system for the washroom to only allow one worker in at any time. They wear gloves under gloves, masks and faceguards, plus clean overalls every day. We also have a temperature control system in place to test incoming staff and obviously anyone showing symptoms would be sent home immediately without entry to the factory on full pay.
Austen: Did you make gains with retailers (sales) as some of the other pie and meat manufacturers have?
Kevin: No, our products are mainly sold in fish and chip shops and restaurants. Our RSP is quality for the right price, not something that larger retailers’ buyers are used to handling.
Austen: Are your ready for the re-opening of shops on mass?
Kevin: Yes, we are now working again in order to refill empty shop freezers. McWhinney’s sausages are a staple of the chip shop trade, so we expect to figure boldly in the new smaller menu era. Stock is available now so to avoid sell-outs I feel that it would be advisable for shops to order fresh stock ahead of opening.
Austen: How can shops make the most of the situation?
Kevin: We have to all work together and share our successes. I realise its not a one size fits all scenario, but there are some great things happening out there and we will all have to learn to adapt and listen
Austen: What makes a McWhinney’s sausage so good on the menu.
Kevin: You can cook a box of sausages in around 7 minutes. Click and collect slots will need to be regimented and a product like our sausages will help to get meals out faster. McWhinney’s are made with the finest ingredients, which the majority of people are looking for especially from a treat from a takeaway meal.
Austen: What was your tip for shops on the vulnerable in lock down?
Kevin: There are over 1.5 million people (like myself) actually in complete lock down. We have not been allowed out for at least 12 weeks. If we could help to feed them a few days a week alongside their siblings, that is a 6 million audience right there waiting to be fed.
Austen: What will be the new normal?
Kevin: Social distancing, no walk ins, click and collect, & home deliveries. Thankfully, our sausages heat and travel well!
Austen: Any tips on cooking a great sausage.
Kevin: I’m not one to teach my grandmother to suck eggs most of our customers cook our products to perfection. One tip would be however not to tempted to over fry them.
McWhinney’s new advert gives a useful guide to getting back open.