‘The easy bit was being closed’ - seaside restaurant’s route to reopening on July 4
- Credit: Archant
For restauranteur Tyrone Harold interpreting the government’s “ambiguous” guidance on what he can and can’t do ahead of July 4 has not been an exact science.
Some things like going up to the bar are discouraged, not banned, and there is always room for interpretation.
Finding the safest way back to business has been on his mind since lockdown was imposed - and Saturday’s reopening at Branford’s in Caister is not the end of the road.
With Covid-19 receding, but still in the rear view mirror, he is keen to welcome back customers and introduce them to the new systems, but worries about “iPhone warriors” snapping misleading pictures that make “four people look like 40”.
For him the bottom line is safety and confidence.
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“The guidance tells us what we should do but does not say we have to enforce it that heavily,” he said. “It is pretty ambiguous.
“We are trying very hard to instil confidence and show we are doing the utmost we can to make it a safe and enjoyable experience.
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“You are going out because you want to enjoy yourself, not be put in a straightjacket and told you cannot move.
“Overall I am looking forward to it. We have to get started.“There will be things that stick and there will be positives.
“Standards will improve.
“In some ways it will be harder for the staff than the customers because they are going to have to be very vigilant.”
Mr Harold said some eateries had been put off from opening for the first weekend because “that is when you are going to get the iPhone warriors out”.
“You can take a photo from a number of angles and make four people look like 40,” he added.
And he urged more cautious or vulnerable people to stay away at first, but then ask venues to show them what measures they had put in place before they made a booking.
“The most important thing is creating customer and workforce confidence.
“We have seen lots of people over the course of this week who have said they are not ready to come back.
“Give it a miss for the first weekend if you are nervous because there could be a surge of people who are less worried.
“But after that pop in to your favourite place you like to go, stick your head round the door and see how you feel. They would be fools not to let you look around.
“You cannot come in here and not think ‘that’s been moved around’. It is quite evident.
“The easy bit was being closed, the hard bit is reopening and making a profit.
“I thought ‘we have to make this work’ - over the last three months I have thought of nothing else.
“We did not have the guidance until about a week ago so it has been a whirlwind.”
Customers at Branford’s at The Old Hall will find a trimmed back menu and continental-style table service.
A marquee has been added to create more outdoor space.
Overall capacity has gone down from 105 to 75 - although it has doubled outside.
The restaurant itself has gone from 52 to 44 covers, with staggered reservations.
On arrival people will find a distanced meet-and-greet and be taken to a table.
Ordering is via iPads that link directly to the kitchen and bar and diners can draw the attention of staff by raising table-tennis bats - quarantined after each sitting, along with sauce pots.
Once a table is free it becomes ‘inactive’ until sanitised.
There is also a one-way system in place.
For extra transparency their risk assessment and details of their cleaning regime are on display.
Mr Harold said the main balancing act involved following the guidelines to cut the virus risk and making sure people had an enjoyable time despite the restrictions.
It is opening at 10.30am on Saturday, July 4.