The Manchester Food & Drink Festival returns in 2020

The festival is back and will be the city's first COVID-safe major outdoor event!

By Manchester's Finest | 11 August 2020

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The 23rd Manchester Food and Drink Festival will take place this year from 24th September – 5th October.

The Festival Hub on Cathedral Gardens will be at the heart of the event – with a new layout and operational systems designed to ensure the event is COVID-safe and secure, as well as activities in other venues around the city.

The Festival Hub will be open from Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th September and then again from Thursday 1st – Sunday 4th October with a programme of offers and events happening in partnership with the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes and chefs throughout the full 12 days – all designed to celebrate Manchester’s wonderful, diverse and resilient hospitality industry.

The event is able to go ahead following council approval of the new Festival safety plan. New headline sponsors, food delivery service Just Eat has a large number of exciting restaurant partners in the Manchester area, as well as a huge customer base, and are keen to support the industry and the local community.

The free to enter Festival Hub will operate with a limited capacity in place to ensure that visitors can enjoy the Festival and maintain an appropriate physical distance from others. The site will be made up of two key areas – The Feasting Quarter and the Festival Market.

As well as free, unreserved access to MFDF, there will also be a limited number of bookable tables on site in the Feasting Quarter. For a reservation fee of £5, guests can guarantee a table at the event and skip any queues to get onto the site.

The Festival Bar and Feasting Quarter

The Festival Bar and Feasting Quarter will all be undercover this year with enough seating for all guests to eat and drink at tables and there’ll be no more queuing for your favourite food experience as the Festival will be operating table service across the site.

MFDF’s famous Manchester beer bar will create a magnificent centre piece to the area with many local beers on offer showcasing and supporting the region’s very best brewers.

This year every single brew will be available on tap, and via the tap of a screen too, as the whole site goes digital. Visitors will be able to browse the menus from all the traders, bars and brewers at the Festival via their mobile phones to reduce contact and queuing on site.

MFDF Live Music

The Festival’s live music stage will provide a very special acoustic soundtrack to the event with some of Manchester’s best bands and artists invited to perform stripped back versions of their usual acts for an easy-going, but very special, and COVID-safe outdoor live music experience.

The live music stage will be run in association with some of the city’s best acts, promoters and venues and will aim to support and showcase the live industry and its plight as one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The Festival Market

On the other side of the Festival Hub, the Festival Market will take place – a fabulous foodie shopping experience with over forty traders across two weekends showcasing the very best local, independent and sustainable food and drink from around the region.

It will be MFDF’s biggest market yet and will also operate with strict safety measures in place including a one way system, hand sanitiser upon entrance and face coverings encouraged.

Meanwhile, a programme of activity will be happening in partnership with some of the city’s best and most exciting restaurants throughout the 12 days, as Manchester’s dining community unites for one big Autumn showcase to encourage support and celebration at the most difficult time the industry has ever faced.

This will include digital and ‘at home’ experiences for those that aren’t ready or able to eat out just yet.

The MFDF team are delighted to be able to stage the event this year, supporting jobs across a huge range of sectors decimated by the pandemic – from event production to hospitality – and, of course, celebrating our incredible food and drink scene and night-time economy.

The event is to be staged with support from Manchester City Council and will be the first major festival to take place in the city centre since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester City Council Executive Member for Skills Culture and Leisure said:

“This celebration of all that’s great about Manchester’s famous food and drink scene, is a staple of our outstanding events calendar. I know that its return to Cathedral Gardens will be warmly welcomed by local patrons and businesses alike. The safety of all those attending is our paramount concern and so careful planning is in place to ensure that the Festival will run in a COVID-secure way.”

Alexa Stratton-Powell, Director of the Festival commented:
“We’re thrilled to be planning a 2020 Festival, particularly at such an incredibly challenging time for our hospitality industry. It’s great to be staging a positive event for the city’s food and drink lovers too – we all need something to celebrate and look forward to right now.

“We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our headline sponsors, Just Eat. Without their support, and that of Manchester City Council, we simply wouldn’t be able to do this. It has been, and continues to be, a difficult and distressing time. We know that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere fast – and neither is our city’s love for good food and drink. Our Festival this year will provide a safe setting in which to indulge in the pure joy of great gastro experiences. Watch this space for more announcements and we can’t wait to see everyone in September”

Phil Jones, Festival Founder: ‘The 23rd MFDF will help bring people back safely into Manchester City Centre. Creating jobs and boosting the economy have always been a central part of our vision. This year that’s more important than ever. The launch of the MFDF App is a great asset for all Mancunians and “Staycationers” and will make this new festival format even easier to navigate. We know it’s tough right now for everyone, but the Festival will provide a chance for the Manchester community to come together safely.’


Manchester Food & Drink Festival 2020

Dates: 24th September – 5th October 2020
Venue: Cathedral Gardens
Cost: Free (some events will be ticketed)

More Info