TAKEAWAYS have long been a convenient treat – but they’ve taken on an elevated role in recent weeks.

With a sit-down dinner at a restaurant out of the question, or a burger and a pint down the pub ruled out, takeaways are currently the only alternative to cooking at home.

But they are also offering a lifeline for many businesses, with food outlets now offering takeaways to cater for a surge in demand.

It was a worrying time for the hospitality and catering industry when the UK went into lockdown on March 23, and they were forced to close their doors.

They weren’t even allowed to serve takeaway meals until after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an easing of restrictions on May 10.

It offered a way for many to start working again, including Hexham’s Zyka Indian restaurant, which is owned by brothers Khaled, Rashid and Mashuk Miah.

After placing their team of staff on furlough, the brothers waited patiently until they were allowed to offer a takeaway-only service.

“It has worked really well so far,” said Rashid. “We’ve had people of all ages come along and I think having a takeaway, and a break from cooking at home, has lifted spirits.

“From a community perspective, we have been able to see how everyone is supporting each other.

“Some people are picking up food for those who have been self-isolating, and it makes us feel good to know we’re giving people a good meal during these difficult times.”

Rashid said the easing of lockdown restrictions has allowed them to keep the business ticking over.

“There’s only us three brothers working at the moment,” he said. “But for us to keep a presence in this community, which we have served since 2013, is a big thing.

“Government support has helped, because we’ve been able to put our staff on furlough, and hopefully operating as we are now will keep us going until life returns to normal.”

The Miah brothers are working strictly in accordance with government regulations, with orders and payment all taken over the phone. Customers do not enter the premises, and Rashid meets them outside with their food.

“We are restricted,” said Rashid. “My brother Khaled is currently working as curry, rice and naan chef, Mashuk is packaging the takeaways, and I am taking the orders, and taking food out to customers.”

Zyka, which has just had its five-star food hygiene rating renewed, continuing its top rating since 2013, is also offering a 25 per cent discount to NHS workers.

Rashid explained: “This is our commitment to giving something back to the men and women of the NHS who are working so hard, and doing such a great job.”

Hexham’s Shire Gate Cafe has been offering takeaway Sunday lunches for the past five weeks.

When Jennifer Ireland took over the family business, on Battle Hill, almost exactly a year ago, she wasn’t expecting to be operating a takeaway-only service, but she’s been overwhelmed by the response.

“There’s a been a lot of interest in our Sunday lunches, and we are pleased to be doing it for the community.

“I just want to thank everybody for their support, and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming people back inside the cafe once this is all over.”

Beef and lamb used comes from Jennifer’s family farm at Wylam.

Orders must be phoned in by Saturday.