'We're doing our upmost to create the best restaurant we can - so come and support us'

The  Staff Canteen

Restaurants have adapted a lot to keep on doing what they know best.

Since reopening, Jeffrey Robinson, chef and owner of Cornwall's New Yard Restaurant, has switched to an al fresco dining experience, with the option of going inside should diluvian rain occur.

Chris Lee, chef and owner of The Bildeston Crown in Bury St Edmunds, has extra people on the payroll to stay on top of the restaurant's track and trace strategy and additional hygiene precautions. 

Thankfully, for the most part, customers have been very supportive, eagerly flooding back to enjoy their favourite (albeit slightly different) dining experiences. 

"We're very happy to be open," Chris said. "The sun is shining and things are going well. We're fully booked for lunch today - I've never had a Friday lunch fully booked," adding that his footfall has increased thanks to support from locals, who've warmed to the idea of going to The Bildeston for a few pints, not just for a fine dining experience. 

Yet still, some revert to old tricks - booking several restaurants and choosing one at the last minute, or failing to show up for a reservation with the pretence thay they "forgot."

"It is heartbreaking," Chris said, "and my chef is like, 'really chef?' What do you say to people who've come back, ready to cook some food? 'Sorry, I forgot'? Really?'" 

"Can you imagine if we forgot to do the table for them when they turned up? 'We forgot that you were coming' or 'we overbooked it like BA did', assuming that a few people were going to cancel?"

Last weekend, Jeffrey explained, "25% of our turnover just cancelled, and another two people after that did too.

"I ran at a £300 loss that night. Over the course of the weekend, we had 52 no-shows."

Just like his friend and fellow chef Bruce Rennie, his restaurant is seasonal, with at best six months in a cash positive situation, and another six of just breaking even.

One solution often brought up - asking for deposits -  Jeffrey said "does put that level of discomfort, when you go to book a table," not to mention that "if we're taking bookings on the phone, we can't spend that extra five minutes taking their bank details, because you're missing another two to four people." 

Jeffrey added: "We want our experience to be really friendly, really nice - but it's a two way street." 

"We have put everything we own into this," he said, and any savings he and his wife had have gone as a result of Covid.

It's now or never

More than ever, the future of restaurants, and the livelihoods of those who work in them, lie in the balance. 

"We now need to be running at our new 100% if we are to have a chance of coming back next year," Jeffrey said.

"Eventually we're going to have to make a decision of - we can't put our family in any more risk than it's already in and we're going to have to put ourselves first and close the restaurant." 

"We're going to do our upmost to create the best restaurant we can, supporting all the local economy that we can - so come and support us." 

Fearing that a second wave of Coronavirus could shut down the industry once more, Chris said: "I think there's going to be a kick in the bollocks coming again - we've got a forty people restaurant, and if people don't turn up, it is bad news." 

However, ever focused on making the future bright, he added: "We're positive - I just hope we're having a positive conversation this time next week." 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st July 2020

'We're doing our upmost to create the best restaurant we can - so come and support us'