2020 had started with so much optimism, following on from a very successful Christmas and New Year’s trading period. That seems an awfully long time ago, compared to where we are now.
Here we are contemplating how on earth we are going to get back to any sort of normality. Moving the goal posts is something that we constantly do in the hospitality sector to accommodate business trends and patterns, but we are currently in uncharted territory. We must be creative, positive, sensible and patient. I was always told that in business ‘If you rest you rust’, and that quote is so much more relevant today than it’s ever been.
Everyone will have to adhere to the ‘social distancing’ policy that has been the forefront of trying to control the increase of Covid-19, yet that is the antithesis of what ‘hospitality’ stands for; that is the ultimate party-pooper. Boosting customer confidence in public dining will be a huge challenge for the short-term.
Pricing, concept and style of food and service will also play a big part. People have been hit hard in the pocket, therefore entertaining and dining out may not be on top of their to-do lists in their day-to-day lives.
"We must be creative, positive, sensible
and patient. I was always told that in
business ‘If you rest you rust’"
I believe that the average spend will be a lot lower than before, alcohol sales could be hit, and we may also see the set-priced menu format soar. Much of restaurant going will likely be personal and business budget led.
Those establishments that have exterior dining spaces will see a short-term benefit in good weather, and they will hopefully be able to benefit during the summer months. I envisage reduced interaction with the floor staff being a priority, too; visits to the table will have to be shortened and monitored. We will have to eliminate all counter and bar service and remove stool seating.
Our overall restaurant seating capacities will have to be reduced as a result, with probably table sizes of no more than four guests.
Brand loyalty and reputation will triumph through these times. The customers we looked after day in/day out will hopefully remember the service, the food and the atmosphere that they previously enjoyed, and be patient with any little necessary alterations to the overall product.
What won’t change is the commitment from our side to always offer seasonal, good food, an interesting and well-priced drinks list, and staff who really care about the true meaning of hospitality.
I pray for the return of a ‘feel good’ factor – and the sheer pleasure – for my customers and myself – of sitting down to a restaurant meal, perusing a menu, ordering a glass or bottle of good wine, and sharing the experience of non-lockdown with friends or family.
Anthony Demetre is chef/proprietor of Wild Honey in St James and Vermuteria in King Cross' Coal Drops Yard.