Sat Bains: “I got the measuring tape out. It’s devastating to see the damage to any business”

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sat bains, Chefs, Coronavirus, Fine dining

Social distancing measures when restaurants are allowed to reopen will present huge challenges for businesses, according to the chef-patron of two Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms Restaurant Sat Bains.

Speaking on BigHospitality​’s latest #UnitedWeStand podcast, Bains, who runs his eponymous fine dining restaurant in Nottingham, says that he is waking up to the reality of running a restaurant with a third of the number of usual covers.

“I got the measuring tape out and we measured [the dining room] and it’s devastating to see how bad two metres [between tables] can damage any business,” he says. “We worked out that we can do 22 covers when we are normally doing 60 – you’re running at a third occupancy.

“My biggest fear is what do you do when you come back. It’s going to be a different business.”

Bains, who moved his restaurant to a four-day week back in 2015 to give his team a better work/life balance, says another great fear is having to lay staff off as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not something I want to do,” he says. “If I can only run on 25 or 30 covers, that’s 45% of what I can do. But at what sacrifice to the quality of what we provide.”

In terms of social distancing measures, Bains believes that customers will be accepting of certain changes but that fine dining restaurants will struggle to retain their high level of service and standards under such conditions.

“Can you see someone coming over to you in a mask? How do you get the intimacy and the looking after people, the things that restaurants are so used to doing. You’ve to question everything.”

He adds that such measures also make it a challenge back of house and says that the two-star restaurant’s menu might need to change as a result of a smaller number of chefs being allowed in the kitchen.

“We’ve got 14 chefs. In our savoury kitchen we’ve got seven,” he says. “If I have to reduce that to three, how do you perform at the level you think you can justify the prices and the quality and expertise?”

#UnitedWeStand​has been created by William Reed hospitality titles BigHospitality, Restaurant magazine and Morning Advertiser and is supported by Britvic, CocaCola European Partners and Unilever Food Solutions. To download this podcast via iTunes, click here.

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