Well-known Norfolk chef to open pizza restaurant on the coast
PUBLISHED: 16:24 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:24 02 July 2020
North Norfolk hotelier and restaurateur Eric Snaith adapted his fish and chip shops to offer click and collect to customers during lockdown and is due to welcome back guests to Titchwell Manor from July 4. And later this month he plans to open a new pizza restaurant too.
“It was a really emotional time to be honest. Not like anything I’ve ever experienced,” says Eric Snaith. The north Norfolk hotelier and restaurateur is reflecting on how he felt back in March when it became clear that like other countries in Europe, the UK was heading towards lockdown.
“We were anticipating something was happening and and we were trying to be as innovative in those weeks up to closure as possible, mainly trying to keep all the staff in jobs, which was the most stressful thing,” he says.
Eric is a well-known name on the county’s dining scene. He owns Titchwell Manor hotel and has two branches of Eric’s Fish and Chips, his twist on the traditional chippy, in Thornham and Holt (there’s a third at St Ives, in Cambridgeshire, too).
After closing, Eric felt a “huge relief” when the furlough scheme was announced and while he was “shellshocked” by the situation that had rapidly unfolded, he says that it “felt amazing that at least the staff were safe”.
“Emotionally it probably took a couple of weeks to get over it in a way,” says Eric. There were lots of practicalities to consider in the first few weeks – they had to shut down their kitchens, then there were discussions with accountants and banks to be had to plan for the weeks ahead.
The lockdown has shown how innovative the hospitality industry is, and many restaurants and cafes have responded by adapting to operate as takeaways within the lockdown and social distancing guidelines. In the case of Eric’s Fish and Chips, it speeded up their plans to offer a click and collect service – and over time they also started to offer a socially distanced walk-in service.
“It made it a necessity in this situation and I think it encouraged a lot of our customers to use click and collect that wouldn’t have before. I think once you’ve used it and got the hang of the system, long term it’s easier just to keep coming back and doing it, so that’s been really good. it’s been quite positive,” says Eric.
And looking towards the eventual easing of lockdown, and welcoming customers back to dine in, they teamed up with Warren Screens to produce screens for between tables for Eric’s Fish and Chips at Thornham which are in keeping with their bright decor scheme.
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“We just felt we wanted to be ahead of the game and put things into place – whether they’re totally necessary when it comes down to it, time will tell, but at least we are in a position where our customers can feel as comfortable as possible. We’re really pleased that we managed to get something that fitted in with the style of the restaurant. It doesn’t look completely out of place and it can keep a similar feel to the restaurant,” he says.
While Eric knew he was working towards a potential re-opening date of July 4 for Titchwell Manor, it was tricky to start planning properly before the government had issued its guidelines.
“We’re going to have two weeks where we’re only offering room accommodation and setting up a mini restaurant in each of the rooms so that our guests can come and stay with us, have breakfast in their room, have dinner in their room, but still have a good restaurant experience as much as possible. I’m feeling quite lucky that as a hotel we have a lot of space, a lot of dining space, we’ve never really been a business that crams people in. We’ve got almost the majority of our rooms outside, a lot of them with their own access, with outside space. The majority are pretty good sized rooms as well so I think that that with the grounds of the hotel, quite a large garden, our location, I’m hopeful we can still appeal to people that want a bit of an escape. We’re obviously putting sensible safety procedures in place, we’ve been using face masks and we’re looking more at visors because it is a difficult where you’ve got faces covered and you can’t smile, which I know is such an important thing in hospitality.
“Ultimately it’s just going to keep changing I think and we’ll be led slightly from our customers as well. You are constantly second guessing it at the moment, but if we’ve got customers coming to stay and they’re saying they’d rather eat in the restaurant with space round them, then we’ll work with them on that.”
While some of Eric’s plans for this year, such as new shepherd’s hut accommodation, have been put on hold until the spring, he is pressing ahead with opening a new restaurant in the next
“It seems completely bizarre when I’ve been worrying about shutting them for the last three months, but we’re opening a pizza restaurant called Eric’s Pizza, which is next door to the fish and chip shop in Thornham, in the Yurt Restaurant. It was an opportunity we felt we couldn’t miss, and we’ve taken a similar approach to what we did with the fish and chips, looking to offer really good quality pizza with really good quality English ingredients and an excellent antipasti menu where we’ll make a lot of our own pickles. We’re aiming it at family dining, we really want to make it a price point that families can afford quite easily. We’ll offer click and collect and we’ve teamed up with the owner of Drove Orchards and are creating a vast outside space in the orchard for people to bring blankets or to use as a big picnic area.”
And what does Eric think the long term impact of the pandemic will be on the hospitality industry?
“I’m split, I think there will definitely going to be a hangover from this, but equally I think people are resilient and will want to get back as close to normal as possible.I think people will probably continue to use click and collect takeaway services more than ever. It was naturally going that way anyway, people were preferring to socialise at home.
“I think it’s very important that you get your offering correct in a restaurant or hotel, so that if people come out they are really getting an experience that they can’t get at home.”
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