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Highlands restaurant boss launches layby takeaway service to help HGV drivers get hot food delivered

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The layby takeaway service has been launched to help ensure drivers have access to a hot meal while on the road.

A Highlands restaurant and takeaway owner has put a call out to HGV and large lorry drivers to give them the opportunity to order hot food straight to their cabins while pulled up in local laybys.

Stephen Smith, owner of The Bears Den in Brora, posted on the firm’s Facebook page to alert his customers of the new service which he says will “keep drivers fed, and keep the local roads clear and safe”.

The premises lies just off of the A9 which runs through the village and is a popular pit-stop for delivery drivers and workers travelling north and south.

The Bears Den in Brora has a small car park out the front of the venue for customers which isn’t big enough for large lorries.

And customers have already been sharing the post in local lorry drivers’ Facebook Groups to alert them of the new service.

Taking the decision to launch the offering off the back of the latest restrictions on takeaway food and drink, Stephen wanted to ensure HGV drivers would be able to get hot food from somewhere as with many venues closed and fast food drive-thru’s usually boasting height restrictions, he saw how the new restrictions could quickly have a huge impact on them.

He said: “In the past there have been a few HGV drivers looking for something like this. We had one who messaged our Facebook page and said he’d run out of time to get to us and had pulled over at the layby just outside the village. He asked if we wouldn’t mind delivering to him and I said ‘sure no bother’ and took the food out to him. I didn’t charge him for delivery as it is just down the road and the least I could do to help.

“Another guy pulled up on the street outside with his lorry and came up to the premises in a bit of a panic as he was nervous the police would give him in trouble for parking where he did. He asked if we had anything ready, but we cook everything to order, so I told him to go down to the next layby and that we’d take it out to him. He was so grateful and was really delighted he’d managed to get fed.”

Drivers have been faced with challenges to get hot food on the road.

Only open for takeaway since March 2020

Buying the premises in 2014, Stephen spent a year-and-a-half renovating the place which has only been open for takeaway since closing the restaurant area in March 2020 when the first national lockdown came into place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And while he may not be able to welcome customers through his doors currently, Stephen will do his best to accommodate those who need feeding by delivering it right to their door – or the doors of their vehicles which is the case for HGV drivers.

He said: “I had seen online that quite a lot of drivers has been complaining as they can’t get hot food anywhere. I thought it was something we could offer them so at least they can get the chance to enjoy some hot food.

The fish and chips at The Bears Den.

“The nearest layby to us is a mile outside the village and then the other is about another mile down the road from that. It’s not a big issue for us dropping off the food and helping them out.

“Our menu for the takeaway is like a fish and chip shop menu. There’s pizzas, kebabs, burgers, curries and things like that and we also provide hot drinks. A lot of the HGV drivers find it hard to park anywhere and with most drive-thrus only open to cars with the height restrictions, they aren’t really able to get any food on the road as such unless they stop at a supermarket or in a busy village or town, which isn’t ideal when you have a massive lorry. A lot of the businesses are also closed so they have that to contend with, too.

“You’d think some of these drive-thrus would try and accommodate the HGV drivers by installing a hatch or a place where they can pick up their food so they could still get warm food, but nowhere is really doing that.”

The Bears Den parking facility can’t accommodate large lorries.

Ordering made easy

For those looking to use the service, Stephen says it couldn’t be easier to order and pay, and he’ll even send a link out to those who want to pay by card so drivers don’t have to worry about having cash on them.

“The drivers just need to give us a call once they have parked, or at the start of their journey, and they can let us know when they are there and what they want to eat,” said Stephen.

“We can also send them a link to pay for their meal over the phone to save them worrying about having cash on them.

“For any other customers picking up orders they need to call us in advance as well and then give us a call when they arrive. Because we’re on a reduced team, we do try keep an eye out for people arriving, but once they get here we’re advising customers to give us a ring so we don’t have them waiting. We then bring their order out to them. We’ve also been doing deliveries as well and have delivered to Golspie and Helmsdale.

“I used to be open from 7am to 8.30pm but at the moment we’re just open from 4pm to 9pm seven days a week. It is really difficult to know what it will be like from one day to the next so we’ve had to reduce the hours we’re working.”