These restaurants have already reopened: here’s what the hospitality industry can learn from them.

8 Jul 2020

While the hospitality industry reopens, many businesses bide their time to see how the situation unfolds. They’ve noted government advice and read the trend forecasts, but they want to see it for themselves ⁠— learning from the restaurants who have already reopened.

To assist with this, we’ve compiled insights and tips from the restaurateurs and founders who have already reopened their spaces. From fine dining spots to neighbourhood wines bars, here are the challenges they’ve faced, and how they’ve overcome them:

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Milk Beach

Reconfigure your seating layout.

A big concern is how venues can rearrange their layout to comply with social distancing. Too close and you compromise hygiene standards, too far apart and there could be a lack of atmosphere. For Daniela, Newcomer Wines’ new layout means capacity is down by 50%, an issue she says is significantly impacting smaller neighbourhood spaces: “It’s our biggest challenge: operating at a lower capacity while still delivering the same quality of service our customers expect from the old days.” For venues with limited square footage, the answer may be to use previously unutilised space. Take Queen’s Park restaurant Milk Beach who, since reopening, has not only started using their pavement as a dining area but they have also taken over next door’s restaurant.

Stagger your staffing.

Even with a responsible layout in place, these measures could be compromised by a surge of staff arriving for their shifts at once. To solve this, look to Asian restaurant Jikoni, who have announced they will be staggering staff rotas — not only to ease congestion but also to let their staff travel on public transport at off-peak times. If your new space doesn’t allow for all of your team to return, Nick Gibson, owner of The Drapers Arms, recommended to stay up to date with the latest Job Retention Scheme advice. “The new scheme allows us to give some work to all of our staff, whilst they retain support for the hours we cannot yet offer them. For our busiest shifts, our front of house staff will have sections to avoid crowding.”

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Newcomer Wines

Switch to a booking system.

Planning ahead allows you to really focus on the here and now. Therefore, it’s no wonder that many brands are not allowing walk-ins and are adopting a reservations-only model: from well-known chains like All Bar One to smaller neighbourhood bars like Newcomer Wines. “We’ve made pre-booking slots compulsory so that we can plan ahead as much as possible in these uncertain times,” Daniela told us. However, if you have space, there’s no reason why you can’t cordon off a dedicated area for a limited number of walk-ins. “The Drapers Arms will be doing table service only, but we also have a small garden which we never book,” Nick told us, ”Being outdoors is considered safer, so there should be capacity for walk-ins if we get decent summer weather.”

Double down on hygiene.

The hospitality industry has always practised very high standards of cleaning, but now there will be no room for error. Rik Campbell, the co-founder of Kricket, had insight on how reopening restaurants could approach this: “Besides the obvious things like wiping tables and washing hands, there’s been a real move to disposable cleaning products. Before, we used one cloth to sanitise all our tables, but we now use disposable alcoholic wipes. It’s what’s needed.” Single-use products have been a big trend, with venues like Bright using disposable menus to decrease the risk of contamination. A zero-contact service is also an option: Wild by Tart have made it possible by introducing a QR code ordering service for their tables.

You should also consider that your customers also have a responsibility to fight the spread, too. Communicate with all upcoming bookings with an up to date list of symptoms via email, advising them not to visit if they or anyone in their household are showing signs. Make sure your staff are informed for these too, so they can stay informed and keep themselves safe.

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Slerp

Make the most of your delivery options.

If your restaurant is working at reduced capacity, then it could be an option to make up the difference through a takeaway or click & collect service. You will be able to not only drive some much-needed revenue but also reach your customers who aren’t ready to venture out just yet. Many have opted for the tried-and-tested Deliveroo, but a new service called Slerp allows brands to merge their delivery service onto their website, without compromising on their brand image. This has been tried and approved by Newcomer Wines: “We’re really thankful that many of our regulars are using these services, but also allows us to extend our customer base across the UK.” Meeting the needs of your customers through alternative services can also build their trust and loyalty with your brand, according to a recent article from Forbes.

Put an emphasis on customer service.

With advanced hygiene measures in place, it could make your space to feel sterile, and even unwelcoming for your guests. Rik suggested remedying this with top-notch customer service, informed by official guidelines. “The day before we reopened, the Kricket team had a training day alongside the latest government guidance,” he recounted, “Besides this, I’d recommend Food Alert for external training. Usually, they come in every six months, but during COVID they’ve provided some really great webinars to advise us.” As well as this, the Institute of Hospitality has developed courses specifically to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

More than ever, attentiveness, friendliness and product knowledge will be key. Nick cites this passion as the key to providing an unforgettable experience: “I have desperately missed the community of the pub. I can’t wait to welcome people back, to see plates of food devoured and to open a few good bottles of wine.”

If you’re looking to mark lockdown lifting by launch a new restaurant, bar or bistro, you can chat to one of our expert advisors via The Hotline to get help and advice on setting up shop.