After what has been a long four months of hospitality being closed, Julia Bryce looks to the future and gives some advice on how customers can help the industry recover from a year of lockdown restrictions.
If there’s one thing I have taken from the coronavirus pandemic on a whole, it is to be kinder. Not just to family and friends, but to strangers, and more importantly, myself.
As some of the hospitality sector begins to reopen today as the next stage of lockdown restrictions ease, there will be many people rushing to get out to venues to socialise in cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants. But, there will also be a range of individuals who remain uncertain and wary of venturing out, as, after all, we’ve been here before.
In Aberdeen, where I am based, we’ve experienced three lockdowns and this third reopening has never been more crucial, not only for the local and national economy, but for hospitality workers’ mental health and wellbeing, too.
Some of these staff members who will be serving you today will have potentially been furloughed for a year or so. Some may be extremely anxious about serving customers again or may be unsure as to how customers will react to these, once again, new ways of being served. Almost all of them are having to work with new practices in place to keep customers safe – including having to run around with a face mask on for hours on end.
Faces behind the businesses
Having covered the north-east food and drink scene extensively for years, and spending a better part of the last year covering the Highlands and Islands and Tayside and Fife’s food offering, I have got to know many of the faces behind these businesses.
I have watched them celebrate reopenings together and have witnessed them be crushed by the pandemic with the challenges it has thrown there way. I have felt inspired by their resilience, their passion and love for an industry which has been battered and bruised, and seen them pick themselves up and dust themselves off, always ready to serve customers with a smile no matter what is thrown their way.
So what can we do to help the situation and make this new transitional period of hospitality getting back on its feet a little easier for everyone? Be a little kinder, of course.
While we are all desperate for a pint in a beer garden, cocktails with friends, dinners out with family, or a catch up over coffee with colleagues, we need to remember that this is only the beginning, and we need to walk before we can run.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, and if we want things to keep progressing in a positive manner, we need to be understanding and patient.
By working together, both customers and hospitality workers can make these next few weeks and months an enjoyable time, especially with more opportunities for dining al fresco and enjoying food and drinks outside in beer gardens with the nicer weather on its way.
When it comes to working your way around any venue, look to the staff to guide you. They have been trained to ensure customer safety is paramount and will ensure your visit is a memorable one for all.
If you are unsure what the rules are in different venues, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone ahead of your trip to ask for advice.
Booking ahead online or heading to their websites or social media pages will also usually give you the answers you are looking for.
It is important for us to all act sensibly when visiting our favourite businesses, and by keeping ourselves and others safe, this may, and hopefully will, be the final time we have to experience coming out of lockdown when it comes to the hospitality sector.
Not showing up for your booking or overbooking yourself with multiple reservations is not going to be helpful for anyone during this current time.
While it is perfectly fine to book multiple venues back-to-back, booking numerous ones for the same time slot until you have decided where you want to go isn’t acceptable when every venue is fighting to get bums on seats.
If you need to cancel your booking or can’t make it anymore, let the venue know as far in advance as you can. This will allow them to put the booking back online or designate it to another customer who may walk in looking for a table.
Most venues are operating with online booking systems in place, however, some are accepting walk-ins, so to ensure others can take advantage of your booking, let the venues know if you have to cancel or postpone.
Some venues now ask for credit card details when booking as a result of no shows and customers not turning up. This term is put in place with some bookings to allow venues to charge customers who do not show up.
For those of you, myself included, who feel up for getting out and about to your favourite local restaurants or drinking haunts, then be sure to enjoy it.
Hospitality workers are undoubtedly looking forward to welcoming customers back and although it has been a long four months, and in some cases a long 13 months, of not serving customers, the industry is delighted to be back in operation and having customers in their premises.
Follow the rules of each venue as best as you can, and if in doubt, ask. While customers are here to support hospitality, staff are also there to support customers and finding this balance of understanding, patience and excitement will help in enabling a successful service.
And to the hospitality teams across the country pulling together today for the first time, good luck.
Stay safe and happy exploring.