The Devon and Dorset based restaurant group, which has eight restaurants with three takeaways and also has Seahorse restaurant in its portfolio, will open the doors of its Plymouth restaurant on 4 July with a new menu, new ordering system and a host of measures that it says have been devised “to bring back hospitality and the pleasures of eating out to locals”.
The group, which has retained all jobs and people, says it has used the time during the Coronavirus lockdown to build an even better business and to review and reflect on the whole operation, As a result, it has introduced Covid-19 safety measures as well as changes to systems and processes and ideas that improve the experience for staff and for customers.
Other restaurants in the group, including in Exeter, Exmouth and Brixham, will open in the coming weeks afterwards. The company also hopes to open an outdoor Seahorse – called Seahorse al mare - on the embankment in Dartmouth, which is subject to some final details from the council on space. The space will have a beach club type feel and is due to open on 10 July.
“We’re opening our restaurants up one at a time and making sure all the changes and measures we’re introducing absolutely work for our customers and our teams,” says co-founder Mitch Tonks.
"It will be a little bit different, with a changed menu and ordering process for instance, but we’re retaining all the Rockfish magic that customers have come to love.”
The decision to open Plymouth first is down to the restaurant’s large capacity and outside space and its different entry and exit doors, that makes customer distancing less of a challenge. “It’s the perfect place to reopen first,” says Tonks. “The marine aquarium next door to us are also opening, feels good to be back.”
Rockfish was on track for its best year yet before the Coronavirus pandemic struck and says that while the episode has put incredible pressures on hospitality it remains confident and optimistic about the future.
“We’ve been helped by our bank, by government loans and we’ve used the time wisely to develop great ideas we’ve had on the back burner for a while and come out of this with a modern, fresh business,” says Tonks. “I believe we will emerge from this as one of the strongest restaurant businesses in the south west.
“We’ve updated everything, in line with all the government guidelines and have produced support documentation and training programmes for all staff, which start this week - it’s a big operation but it is also an exciting one, a chance to reboot.”
Plans to expand the business have been put on hold temporarily as the company says it will “consolidate and deal with the new world” but it says it will be broadening its retail offer serving fish from its flagship site in Brixham and intends to launch a nationwide seafood home delivery service in the future.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to return to but new restaurant openings were the priority before. We have used this time and space to build that vision.”