Game plan: Can Scottish venison survive Covid?

Scots restaurateurs Andy Waugh and Calum Mackinnon are the brains and the passion behind Mac & Wild, a chain of three restaurants serving the best of Scotland’s food and drink and “authentic Highland hospitality”.

Mac & Wild restaurants serve up the best food and drink Scotland has to offer,  promoting "extreme traceability" and authentic Highland hospitality, but business has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic
Mac & Wild restaurants serve up the best food and drink Scotland has to offer, promoting "extreme traceability" and authentic Highland hospitality, but business has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Waugh, whose family runs Ardgay Game butchers in Sutherland, began his foodie journey selling venison street food in London.

After meeting Mr Mackinnon, a shared love of their homeland and its premium produce led to the first Mac & Wild opening up in 2015, in the city’s upmarket Fitzrovia area.

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Just a year later Mac & Wild Devonshire Square was born in the city’s financial district, then Mac & Wild Base Camp was launched in Sutherland last year.

Mr Waugh is passionate about Scottish produce, venison in particular.

“It’s the world’s best meat,” he said.

“It’s good for human health and the environment.

“It’s the food our ancestors ate. We’re evolved to eat it - not intensively farmed meat.

“It’s fresh, it’s wild, no hormones and no antibiotics. And it’s easy to cook.”

The restaurants have been thriving and would usually be packed out at this time of year, with a full diary until after Christmas.

Instead, the lights are off in London under England’s second national lockdown, while the Highland venue is limping along with dramatically reduced trade.

The pair fear for the future and are currently weighing up options.

Their story mirrors those being told across the hospitality sector, but that doesn’t make it easier to bear.

“It is bleak, very bleak,” Mr Waugh said.

“We are being relentlessly bombarded with one problem after another and it’s getting harder to find solutions.

“I’m an upbeat person and I generally thrive on a bit of chaos, but we’re perpetually having to jump through hoops to cope with the next setbacks.

“We should be doing great business right now, but both London premises are closed.

“It’s getting harder to keep going and we have some difficult decisions to make.”

But the pair are determined not to be beaten and are diversifying their business.

They have already launched mail order gourmet food kits to cook at home, as well as bespoke outside catering services.

And next year will see the launch of a novel ‘competitive socialising’ experience involving a virtual hunt, great food and an enviable selection of fine Scotch whiskies.

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