With restaurants now back up and running, Tees Business caught up with the heads of three of the region’s favourite eateries to ask them if their clientele have returned and how they are dealing with the new rules and regulations post lockdown.
Speaking to Dave Allan during a Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A, in association with Close Protection Security (CPS) – Middlesbrough-based specialists in all aspects of close protection – Chris Hand of the Violet Green in Norton, Marcus Bennet of the Bay Horse in Hurworth and Roberto Pittalis of Norton’s Café Lilli all report encouraging signs of a resurgence in local people choosing to eat out once more.
“The support from the public has been great,” says Roberto.
“Obviously we have had challenges such as reducing the capacity of the restaurant and not allowing access to the bar, but once customers see what we’ve done to the place, how we’ve retained the atmosphere and how safe it is, then we all follow the rules and still have a great time.”
The Violet Green was still in its relative infancy when lockdown struck, but Violet Green owner Chris, who runs the restaurant along with his wife, has been genuinely thrilled to see clients return.
“We massively rely on word of mouth as we are so new, and that was a worry initially,” he said.
“Our location is quite tucked away and we lost that impetus for three or four months, so we were worried whether people would remember to come back to us, but so far so good!
Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A, in association with Close Protection Security.This week we're joined by three restaurateurs – Chris Hand from The Violet Green in Norton, Marcus Bennett from the Bay Horse in Hurworth and Roberto Pittalis from Cafe Lilli in Norton.
Posted by Tees Business on Tuesday, 21 July 2020
“We were as full as we could be the first three days of opening and the feedback was great. I think people are just so happy to be back out.”
For Marcus at the Bay Horse and his other three business – The Devenport in Middleton One Row and Muse and Cena in Yarm – having outdoor space at most of them has been a stroke of luck.
“The beauty of the Bay Horse and the Devenport is the gardens,” he said.
“We have substantial gardens, and especially in the Bay Horse there are more people eating outside than there used to be.
“Muse has a front terrace and we have many people there. Across all the restaurants feedback has been brilliant.”
With the government’s help in the shape of a five per cent vat scheme plus the eat out to help vouchers, restauranteurs now have time to breathe and all three of our owners are relieved and thankful.
“It’s been a godsend. The vat reduction is a massive help,” said Chris.
And Roberto agreed: “We are running at 60 per cent capacity so the eat out to help out voucher scheme and the five per cent vat scheme will make a huge difference.
“I admit I was surprised about the drop in vat, it’s something extra which will really help and enable us to reinvest in the business.”
All of the region’s eateries have had to make changes to the way their restaurants run.
But the message from this trio of restaurants is “we’re open for business”.