'I'm not going to stop ordering turbot or caviar just in case we get an outbreak'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

As of Friday, restaurants, pubs and hotels in the Irish counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly, to the west of Dublin, were closed once more after a Coronavirus outbreak took off at local meat processing plants.

Given that these can happen anywhere, to anyone, should chefs and restaurateurs operate at the ready? With so much on the line, is it inevitable that diners' experience is affected by restaurants planning for the worst?

At Bath Prior Hotel, Ballyfin head chef Sam Moody explained, guests were allowed finish their stay, but no new check-ins were allowed - which wasn't the case for Jordan Bailey at Aimsir, who was asked to close his restaurant at the end of the business day. 

"We went from having 30 to 11" people in the restaurant, he said, "because we couldn't take the non-residents and we couldn't have people arrive." 

"It's a real kick, because you get going again - and people's lives are more important, obviously - you get all your systems in place, it's such a significant change, we had to completely restructure the kitchen, same for the restaurant, completely turned it on its head." 

Taking every day as it comes

An approach undoubtedly adopted by many, Sam said that he has been operating on a week-to-week basis, so as to avoid wastage in the event of a second lockdown. 

"There was speculation - it's always been a threat, it's always been at the back of your mind, so we've kept purchases very minimal, enough to get through a couple of days." 

"We didn't want to carry too much stock." 

Despite their best attempts at damage control, the chef said the effect would still be "very significant" on the business, with montly losses in the realms of six digits when the hotel is closed. 

The decision of whether to ease lockdown measures is set to be reviewed on a week-by-week basis, conditionally set on August 24th. 

"Hopefully we open on a busy week and we get going again," he said. 

Michelin-starred head chef of Adare Manor's Oak Room restaurantMike Tweedie, isn't affected by the most recent lockdown. 

Specifically at Adare, "the owners have taken it very seriously and they've invested heavily in the staff and the customers' safety." 

But even so, the prospect of another lockdown is a possibility, as governments don't distinguish between safe and unsafe establishments.

However, the chef insists that the prospect won't affect what he cooks and how he cooks - the guest's experience is as important as ever.

"I'm a very black and white person," he said. "If we have to close for a short period then we do, but I'm going to carry on ordering as I do for a normal week." 

"I want guests to come here and enjoy themselves, especially in times where it is so s**t. I'm not going to stop ordering turbot or caviar just in case we get an outbreak. If that happens, that happens, there's nothing we can do about it." 

"So we just do what we normally do, and that's it." 


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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 11th August 2020

'I'm not going to stop ordering turbot or caviar just in case we get an outbreak'