Tees Talk: Food for thought on restaurant reopening dilemma

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

The Tees region’s restaurants can reopen from this Saturday – but not all of them are doing so. Here, restaurant owners and managers explain the challenges they face in reopening safely following lockdown…

AJ Kuzgun, Al Forno, Ingleby Barwick, Middlesbrough & Darlington

It’s a very challenging time at the moment and adapting our restaurant, in line with the new government guidelines, is something we’re working very hard at.

Our Ingleby Barwick restaurant has been operating as a successful takeaway during lockdown but we’re delighted to be opening it fully on July 4, though our Middlesbrough restaurant isn’t opening at present. We’ve put stringent procedures in place, such as spacing out tables to maintain at least one-metre distances, capping booking sizes, marking the floors to help with distancing and have trained the staff regarding the new rules and hygiene regimes.

All customers will be asked to provide their address and contact details to assist with the government’s track and trace system. Our first priority is the safety of both our customers and the staff and we’ve put everything possible in place to make our reopening celebration as enjoyable and safe as possible.

Roberto Pitalis, Café Lilli, Norton

It’s great news that we can finally reopen and great news too that the distancing guidelines have been reduced from two metres to one. This will give us a better chance of getting through this challenging time.

There are still a lot of rules that we must adhere to. Compared to pre-lockdown, restaurants will be very different now and for a while to come. We very much need the support of the public and, in turn, we need to make the public feel confident to want to come to us too.

Michael Jones, Acklam Hall, Middlesbrough

Like all hospitality businesses, we have faced a difficult time due to Covid, with the main core of our business being weddings, functions, corporate and family get-togethers. With social distancing guidelines, we face real challenges in reopening Acklam Hall safely and sustainably.

The government guidance has been clear with regard to dates but I believe the hospitality sector requires support to get back on its feet. The latest announcement from the Tees Valley mayor is great but we need more guidance into how exactly the government expect the many different types of hospitality to adapt to the new rules and guidelines.

We’re staying closed for now but, as social distancing relaxes further, we hope we can look forward and continue to work hard to welcome everyone back to Acklam Hall again.

Helen Roberts, Oliver’s Fish & Chips, Redcar

These next few weeks and months are going to be extremely hard for us and the reopening of our restaurant. We are all nervous and anxious of what is to come. Are customers going to be comfortable with the measures we are going to be putting into place?

There is little guidance from the government on the measures required. However, we will do the same with our restaurant as we’ve done with our takeaway and return towards normality on a gradual basis. We will open set days over set weeks and then slowly get back to whatever will be our new normal.

Julie Martin, Pie Jackers, Middlesbrough

The introduction of the one-metre rule is a welcome move in the right direction but we won’t be opening our diner on July 4 or any time within the next few weeks.

Since lockdown, we’ve expanded Pie Jackers, adding a successful home delivery service for our frozen bake-at-home pies. The overwhelming demand for the service has helped keep us afloat for the last three months and we just can’t jeopardise that income stream. We’re also back trading at farmers’ markets and we’re already seeing an increase in sales at the outdoor events.

So, if we opened the diner and a customer or a member of staff started to display symptoms of Covid-19 then we would have to stop production for 14 days to isolate, and we’re not willing to risk that happening. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and will reopen the diner when the transmission rate comes down further.