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The return to hospitality: a first-hand account

And so, the pubs, cafes and restaurants have reopened! While the redtops featured images of drunken revellers falling about in the street, for the vast majority, the reopening of their businesses was a much calmer affair. Some venues chose to delay their opening to see how the first weekend of business was dealt with by their industry colleagues, while others opened but with very limited service times or numbers.  

Our Head of Marketing pre-booked to visit her local gastro pub and shares her experience and feedback with you here: 

 “On Saturday morning I was so excited, it was like the first day of a holiday. My table was booked for 9.30 am, we (my husband, myself and our child) were heading out to a local pub for brunch and a cheeky bucks fizz.  

 According to the booking site, the venue was fully booked; I wondered what fully booked meant to a place like this, with a substantial garden and a generously sized inside space. Upon arrival it seemed the answer was: empty. We were one of only two cars in the carpark. Okay, so, they were taking the cautious approach. That seemed sensible to me. We were greeted by sandwich boards instructing us on how to approach and enter the venue and as we went in, we could see staff wearing vizors cleaning down tables. The number of tables was clearly reduced, and two wide aisles had been created down the room to make space for customers walking through.  

We were shown to our table at the back of the room and our waiter explained to us how to access the toilets and gave us instructions on how to move around the room safely. We were also shown a different exit to avoid contact with anyone entering as we left. There were no arrows or tape on the floor, but in front of doors there were floor stickers asking people to maintain a social distance. There were also some screens being used to separate certain areas of the room.  

On our table we had paper menus printed with a stamp – single use only. That made sense, although I imagine they’re going to be going through a lot of paper in the next few months. A digital menu could have made more sense and would save them money, and be kinder to the environment, in the long-term.  Also confusing was the addition of another laminated menu on the table. My husband moved it out of the way, I pointed out that it and the napkin box it was with, probably shouldn’t be touched. 

Our waiter (who wasn’t wearing PPE) took our order, standing a meter away – but later leaned in and took our disposable menus out of our hands. When she returned, she delivered our cutlery in paper bags which also contained salt and pepper. A cute touch – though given the plates and condiments were handled without gloves etc, I’m not sure whether a napkin might have been just as effective.  

While we were there, there was never more than three tables and we were spread a good distance apart. The atmosphere was nice. Yes, it was quiet but there was low music, plenty of staff making background kitchen noise, and the general ambiance of the room was still chilled. The food was good and my bucks fizz was amazing after four months away from a pub! Payment was a bit tricky, there was no clear direction and so in the end we went up to the front of the bar and paid by card.  

Our experience was, by and large, a good one and we felt safe, if a little confused that some staff wore PPE and gloves and others didn’t. The pub had followed government guidelines and had a full risk assessment published on its website. The decision to keep numbers low on that first day of opening was wise as it gave the team time to settle in and, I assume, make note of areas for improvement. It was also comforting to know we had booked a table and that hordes of people weren’t able to turn up at will (though hopefully our 9.30am timeslot also helped us out there!) 

We would have felt 100% secure if there had been a little less close contact from our server. This could be remedied with relative ease using digital menus on-site, or even an order-to-table system. Moreover, a pay-at-table solution would have saved us confusion at the end, as well as the close contact that inevitably comes from using a pin-entry-device for payment.  

Will we be heading back out? Absolutely! I would be keen, however, to visit places which have those technologies in place. Contact between us and our waiter was my biggest concern and I know how easily order and payment technologies, like the ones supplied by QikServe, can minimise that. 

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