In the third of our four-part video series, supported by Arla Pro, Azzurri Group CEO Steve Holmes and Pizza Pilgrims founders Thom and James Elliot, outline how they see the restaurant world post lockdown, and discuss the challenges they face in reopening their estates once lockdown is lifted
“We’d normally open with best performing sites, but this has changed the landscape quite materially because our best performing sites for the most part are in London,” says Holmes, who believes that Azzurri’s restaurant brands, including Ask Italian and Zizzi, could reopen first in smaller towns and more neighbourhood locations.
Holmes also explains how his restaurants will have to adapt to a change in consumer habits post lockdown, including shortening menus and making takeaway and delivery a more prominent part of its business.
“If we can find a way to deliver the menu in full, we will try to find a way to do so but I suspect in practice we will put in simplified menus [at the start],” he says.“We will probably see a move to people wanting to dwell less. We might see faster casual propositions for Zizzi and Ask Italian where the experience will get a bit faster. People will still be looking for an enjoyable meal but the notion of dwelling with strangers will diminish a bit and we will see the speed of service pick up. As a consequence, we might adapt our menu to accommodate that shift in consumer need.”
“It would be naive to think the period we are about to go through won’t change people’s behaviours in some way forever.”
Speaking about potential changes to the wider hospitality landscape as a result of the pandemic, Thom Elliot says that the incident has shown the imbalance of power between landlords and tenants.
“It’s insane the bits of paper you have to sign to get a restaurant in central London, it’s so one sided and there is no wiggle room for anything like this,” he says.
“[The pandemic] has exposed how one sided it is and the only way to get through is with a collaborative process. We need to completely change how that system works.”
As for reopening, he says that the period of closure has given the pizza group valuable time to reflect on its values and how it intends to operate going forwards.
“Restaurants are so full on. This is bullet time in The Matrix - everything has slowed down. In some ways it’s a weird blessing as we can assess what’s great about our business that we want to protect to the end and what’s snuck in that we don’t want any more.”