Operators see huge surge in bookings as they prepare to reopen

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Pubs restaurants bookings surge July 4 reopening Coronavirus lockdown Parkers Arms Oakman Inns Stosie Madi

Related tags: Pub, Oakman inns, Food Hall, Restaurant, Coronavirus, Bookings

A number of operators from across the hospitality sector say they've seen a huge surge in bookings as they prepare to reopen their doors at the beginning of next month.

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement earlier this week that restaurants and pubs in England will be able to reopen from 4 July​, many have now reopened booking lines and received a keen response from customers. 

“What we have done is initially cap our bookings to 70 a day as we reopen, and all of those slots were taken up within minutes of us announcing our reopening,” says Stosie Madi, chef patron of the Parkers Arms gastropub in Lancashire, which is currently ranked at Number 38 in the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants List​.

“We’ve also got lots of further bookings coming through for the rest of July, and for days in August too.”

Madi says her intention is to only take bookings for the Parkers Arms' beer garden, with the cap in bookings ensuring that, should it rain, she will be able to honour all bookings within the pub and ensure social distancing is maintained. 

If the weather does hold though, and she is able to make full use of the pub’s extensive outside space, the number of bookings available will be increased.

Madi adds that she's surprised to have received such an enthusiastic response from her customers.

“It's very encouraging," she tells BigHospitality​.

"I really wasn’t expecting it; the phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the email hasn’t stopped pinging.”

Madi's experience is similar to that of Oakman Inns CEO Peter Borg-Neal, who says the group has received "substantial public enthusiasm" to its plan to reopen all 28 of its pubs on 4 July.

"We have already taken over 3,000 bookings for 4 July, with two of our 28 pubs already fully booked.

"The critical impact for us will be the reduced capacity, not a lack of public demand. The significant challenge will be to ensure that everyone who visits us and works for us has a safe and enjoyable time.”

Following the advisory reopening guidelines​ published yesterday (24 June) by the Government, Oakman has created a 'bespoke mobile app' that allows customers to make table reservations as well as place orders for drinks and food from their phone, which will both help with social distancing, and allow the business to keep a temporary record of all customers and help assist with the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

“Apart from our reopening, my greatest delight, is that two households can meet inside or outside in groups of up to six, although there is still some clarification needed," adds Borg-Neal.

"It will be part of the normalisation process that will help bring the country back together, as families and neighbours are able to meet up and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries that have been on hold."

Meanwhile Incipio, which owns The Prince, Pergola Paddington and Lost In Brixton food halls in London, says it has received a huge spike in traffic to their websites since the Prime Minister's announcement, and has taken more than 20,000 requests for bookings so far for July, including 2,500 within the first 24 hours.

“Following the Government-issued guidelines, we are now able to start booking in the 23,450 guests that have made enquiries to join us in July," says Anthony Knight, sales and marketing director at Incipio.

"Being able to quickly identify if a guest is able to enter whilst securely collecting their information in line with the government requirements gives both our teams and employees the reassurance needed that we are taking all measures to ensure we are able to open safely whilst being able to provide information to the NHS test and trace service if need be.”

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