Dates confirmed, new sponsor and COVID-safe format revealed for Manchester’s favourite epicurean event

After an uncertain year with all manner of cancellations and disappointments, we are pleased to report that Manchester Food & Drink Festival will go ahead this autumn. It will be the 23rd year running for the festival which will take place from 24th September to 5th October 2020. This will be the first major festival to take place in the city centre since the COVID-19 crisis began.

We know that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere fast – and neither is our city’s love for good food and drink

Like last year, The Festival Hub will be in Cathedral Gardens but with a new layout and systems designed to ensure the event is COVID-safe. The hub will be open from Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th September and then again from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th October with the usual packed programme of events in partnership with the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes and chefs. There’s a big focus on celebrating Manchester’s wonderful, diverse and resilient hospitality industry which has certainly had its most challenging year in all 23 years of the festival.

But what's different this year?

2019 05 08 Mfdf Opening Night
Last year's festival opening night


The Feasting Quarter and bar will both be under cover this year, with ample seating and table service for food and drinks. As well as the usual free, unreserved access to MFDF, there will also be a limited number of table bookings available. For a reservation fee of £5, guests can guarantee a table at the event and skip any queues to get onto the site. Bookings can be made here.


MFDF’s Manchester beer bar will create a magnificent centre piece with plenty of local beers on offer showcasing and supporting the region’s very best brewers - and lord knows they need your support right now. This year, every single brew will be available on tap, and via the tap of a screen too, as the whole site goes digital.

2019 09 04 Mfdf Jody Hartley
Things will be a bit more orderly this year, with no queues Jody Hartley


The Festival’s live music stage - in association with local promoters - will provide an acoustic soundtrack to the event with some of Manchester’s best bands and artists performing stripped-back versions of their usual sets. It will be a welcome return for bands who have had their gig calendars decimated this year.


On the other side of the Festival Hub, the Festival Market will host over 40 food 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. See below.

Away from the main hub there will be events - in association with our best local restaurants - all over the city and even online across the 12 days.

150910 Mfdf Launch 013
All music will be acoustic this year

This year’s very appropriate headline sponsor will be Just Eat, who will certainly have played their part in keeping many hospitality businesses afloat as we all temporarily adapted the way we enjoyed restaurant food during lockdown.

Just Eat's UK MD Andrew Kenny said: “We know our customers are keen to enjoy shared experiences with family and friends and we are delighted to be helping them to safely re-engage with the vibrant Manchester restaurant scene.”

Councillor Luthfur Rahman - Manchester City Council executive member for skills, culture and leisure - added: “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.”

MFDF festival director Alexa Stratton-Powell commented: “We’re thrilled to be planning a 2020 Festival, particularly at such an incredibly challenging time for our hospitality industry... 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.” 

Phil Jones, Festival Founder added: “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 annual MFDF Awards will take place on Monday 5th October  - watch this space for details.

For more information and updates, see the MFDF website

What safety measures are in place for 2020?

  • The Festival Hub will operate with a limited capacity to ensure that visitors can maintain an appropriate physical distance.
  • Visitors will be able to browse the menus from all traders via their mobile phones to limit contact and remove the need to queue.
  • A new MFDF app will provide a digital version of the festival programme.
  • Live music will be outdoors and acoustic - a quieter musical accompaniment reduces the need for raised voices, which may increase droplet spreading.
  • The Festival Market will operate with strict safety measures in place including a one-way system, hand sanitiser upon entrance and face coverings encouraged.
  • There will also be digital and ‘at home’ experiences for those that aren’t ready or able to eat out just yet.

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