Andy Sparsis is founder of Proto Restaurant Group, which runs The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing and branches of The Fish Factory in Worthing and Littlehampton, West Sussex
“Our launch date is 9 July. We didn’t want to open on a Saturday night because it is the busiest time of the week, with regulars desperate to come back, and would be a huge challenge to our returning staff. We’re like athletes dealing with lots of people at pace. It’s muscle memory and that will have been forgotten during the lockdown. Staff need time to adjust to coming back and learning new procedures.
“We’ve also found that most of the suppliers are struggling to get full menus and stock back into restaurants. For many, there won’t be enough time to get everything back up and running.
“The 9th gives us more time to offer customers the same level of hospitality they have been used to for years. Can you imagine people dreaming of their favourite steak for months, wanting to be professionally served and then coming into a disaster? That would be really damaging.
“We’re using a one-metre-plus rule, which most restaurants have anyway. We’re not making huge changes to the number of tables inside but have more seating options outside. There is no one-way signage or queuing systems. I know some places are asking customers to wait in their cars before being allowed to come to their table!
“We must recognise that people come to us for an experience and not to feel like they are in the way or have done something wrong. Going out is expensive and we need to prove to people even more than before that their money is being well spent. There is a danger of doing too much risk management and customers being met at the door with a face-shielded, masked, gloved warrior zapping them for their temperatures and demanding their details. You have to get the balance right.
“We expect customers to show common sense and adhere to a 1-metre rule without us constantly telling them.
“We will take staff temperatures, and tables and chairs, salt and pepper pots will be sanitised between bookings. Our front-of-house staff will wear face shields for 14 days and then it will become optional. It’s impossible to ask our kitchen staff to do that given the temperatures in there.
“We have an open kitchen in The Fat Greek but there’s no exposure between staff and customers within two metres. Our plates are sterilised at high temperatures and our chefs already regularly wash hands. We are experienced in this, given the risk of other bugs such as norovirus.
“In terms of revenues, given the loss of Easter and potentially no Christmas parties and customers not coming in October and November because they have a cold, you are looking at a minimum 50% reduction in turnover.”