Sector trends

Countdown to recovery: restaurants in England open their doors

Restaurants can reopen from 4 July in England as life begins to emerge from the lockdown.

“We’ve done the numbers, but we need those seats to be full”

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of vegan restaurant Stem + Glory, with branches in London and Cambridge

“We are reopening the London location on 30 July for dining, with the Cambridge site opening for deliveries and click and collect from 23 July.

“It takes time to reorganise, which is one reason why we aren’t reopening London on the fourth – it’s too rushed. I’m also taking a wait-and-see approach because nobody really knows what’s going to happen, although our bookings are coming in nicely.

“Our London site pre-lockdown was already quite spacious, light and airy, with spread-out tables, so we can keep people 2 metres apart. In contrast, our Cambridge site is very small and it is impossible to do any kind of distancing.

“Our normal capacity in London is 64 seats and we are going to open for 24, with outdoor seating as well. We will start by opening three nights a week and then build up from there.

“We’ve been upgrading our technology so it will be phone-app ordering and pay at table to minimise touching of menus and staff interaction. We have restricted bookings, with customers arriving at 15-minute intervals and a maximum of four people arriving at once. So, in a break from tradition, hopefully people will arrive on time! Maybe customers will value their seat in a restaurant more than before.

“We’re going to have two staff teams working separately and have strict policies of staying at home if they feel unwell. They will wear gloves but won’t go full PPE as that would destroy the dining experience.

“Revenues will be hit, given that we are at a third of capacity with no lunchtime trade from workers in the foreseeable future. But with 24 seats we can run the restaurant with only one front-of-house staff member and two chefs. We’ve done the numbers, but we need those seats to be full.

“With the rates relief and flexible furloughing, we’re optimistic we can keep our heads above water.”

“We must be careful, but we have to push on”

Mark Birchall is chef patron of two-Michelin-starred Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms in Aughton, Lancashire

'We are reopening the main restaurant on 16 July, with our casual dining restaurant The Barn at Moor Hall opening on 7 July.

“At Moor Hall we’ll be keeping our usual tasting menu selection but having a reduced à la carte menu at The Barn. Wine flights will be removed at Moor Hall and cutlery for each course will be laid out from the outset of each meal to reduce face-to-face interaction.

We have 700 covers booked over six days for the first week in The Barn, which shows the demand. People have run out of ideas for recipes at home

Mark Birchall
Chef patron of Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms

“There will be customer temperature checks, compulsory PPE for staff, hand wash/sanitising stations provided at all entrances for guests and work areas for staff, a no-handshake policy, and glass screens between tables at The Barn to maximise the covers and give guests that secure feeling. We’ll be using digital menus there as well.

“In The Barn, we usually have 65 seats and we’ve gone down to 42, while in the restaurant, we’ve gone down from 50 to 32. We also have outdoor seating for The Barn, but being in the north of England we hope the weather will be kind! We have 700 covers booked over six days for the first week in The Barn, which shows the demand. People have run out of ideas for recipes at home.

“We’re about 12 miles from Liverpool and lots of people will continue to work from home so maybe they’ll come out for more lunches during the week.

“Cash flow is tight as we’ve been closed for three months and nervous suppliers are being tougher on credit terms. We must be careful, but we have to push on.”

"Staff need time to adjust to new procedures"

Andy Sparsis is founder of Proto Restaurant Group, which runs The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing and branches of The Fish Factory in Worthing and Littlehampton, West Sussex

“Our launch date is 9 July. We didn’t want to open on a Saturday night because it is the busiest time of the week, with regulars desperate to come back, and would be a huge challenge to our returning staff. We’re like athletes dealing with lots of people at pace. It’s muscle memory and that will have been forgotten during the lockdown. Staff need time to adjust to coming back and learning new procedures.

“We’ve also found that most of the suppliers are struggling to get full menus and stock back into restaurants. For many, there won’t be enough time to get everything back up and running.

“The 9th gives us more time to offer customers the same level of hospitality they have been used to for years. Can you imagine people dreaming of their favourite steak for months, wanting to be professionally served and then coming into a disaster? That would be really damaging.

“We’re using a one-metre-plus rule, which most restaurants have anyway. We’re not making huge changes to the number of tables inside but have more seating options outside. There is no one-way signage or queuing systems. I know some places are asking customers to wait in their cars before being allowed to come to their table!

“We must recognise that people come to us for an experience and not to feel like they are in the way or have done something wrong. Going out is expensive and we need to prove to people even more than before that their money is being well spent. There is a danger of doing too much risk management and customers being met at the door with a face-shielded, masked, gloved warrior zapping them for their temperatures and demanding their details. You have to get the balance right.

“We expect customers to show common sense and adhere to a 1-metre rule without us constantly telling them.

“We will take staff temperatures, and tables and chairs, salt and pepper pots will be sanitised between bookings. Our front-of-house staff will wear face shields for 14 days and then it will become optional. It’s impossible to ask our kitchen staff to do that given the temperatures in there.

“We have an open kitchen in The Fat Greek but there’s no exposure between staff and customers within two metres. Our plates are sterilised at high temperatures and our chefs already regularly wash hands. We are experienced in this, given the risk of other bugs such as norovirus.

“In terms of revenues, given the loss of Easter and potentially no Christmas parties and customers not coming in October and November because they have a cold, you are looking at a minimum 50% reduction in turnover.”

"We're opening for six days rather than five"

Jordan Wiltshire is front-of-house manager at The Angel Taste of Devon fine-dining restaurant in Dartmouth, Devon.

“We’re opening on 4 July. Being a seasonal, Devon-based business, we need the summer months’ trading.

“We’ve reduced the number of tables from 12 to eight and spaced them all 1 metre apart. We’ve taken out the bigger tables to make room for tables of two or three people because they will be our early bookings.

“In an ideal world I’d like 26 covers, but it’s looking like 20 covers each night. Last year we were averaging 40 covers a night. So, to improve that, we’re now opening six days rather than five. We’re also slightly cutting menu options to prevent waste and reduce costs.

“We’ll have hand sanitisers at the door and the bathrooms, staff handwashing every 20 minutes, laminated menus sanitised after each use and plastic screens by the bar and the door.

“There will be some service changes. We’ll open wines for our guests but won’t be coming back to top up glasses. That could have an impact on the experience, but we must reduce risks if we want to stay open.

We will continue smiling and being friendly and attentive

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

scroll to top