Restaurants post-lockdown bite back as diners rediscover appetite for eating out
- Credit: Ian Burt
Norfolk’s restaurants and hotels are preparing to bounce back with thousands of diners showing their appetite for post-lockdown eating out.
One of Norfolk’s top restaurants has been swamped with more than 2,000 enquiries since announcing its plan to reopen.
Celebrity chef Galton Blackiston, who owns and runs Michelin-starred Morston Hall at Morston, near Blakeney, and No 1 fish and chip shop in Cromer said he had been concerned whether people would even venture out again.
But after posting on social media that the restaurant was reopening on July 4, he received more than 2,000 emails for bookings in a couple of hours
Demand has been so strong that he has had to assign a member of staff simply to deal with constant phone calls with the reopening weekend of July 4 already booked up and demand throughout July and August looking the same.
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“I was worried about people venturing out but now I have the opposite problem,” he said.
“I want to make sure people, and that includes staff, are comfortable though as things are going to be changing a bit.
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“People used to arrive and sit in luxury, in the lounge or outside for drinks and canapes but now we will have to take them straight to their table.”
Richard Graveling, general manager of The Grove hotel in Cromer, also said they had been “extremely busy” since the prime minister’s announcement.
He said: “The phones have been going crazy and bookings have been flying in. We’re now looking to be pretty full throughout the summer which will be brilliant.”
He said the venue’s pool would remain closed, but their restaurant was well-suited to take in guests safely as it had a large outdoor area.
Mr Graveling said: “We’re now wading through all the guidance to make sure that we’re compliant.”
Government guidelines published on Wednesday include obvious measures, such as ensuring social distancing, cleaning bathrooms and reducing contact between people.
But pubs and restaurants are also asked to get their customers to order food directly to their tables using a smartphone app, where possible.
Another casualty of the coronavirus restrictions is likely to be the bottle of vinegar or jar of mayonnaise, as the government encourages businesses to replace these with disposable alternatives.
And gone are the days of picking up your own knives and forks at the counter. Cutlery should only be brought to the table with the food, according to the recommendations.
Meanwhile, queues are here to stay, as the guidance to ensure that people wait their turn outside venues.
Paul Garrod at the Furzedown Hotel on North Drive in Great Yarmouth said he had had a flurry of around 20 bookings in the first few hours since the PMs announcement, all for the early part of July.
He said he had been unsure what the response would be from the public but was heartened by the bookings some from hardy regulars and others from new people who were fed up with lockdown and wanted to get away.
He had made a raft of changes at the hotel which was geared up to 2m distancing to help confidence and safety.
Oliver Hurren, at the Yankee Traveller diner in Great Yarmouth, said phone lines had been “ringing and ringing”.
The first week of July was now almost fully booked, adhering to distancing rules which meant every other table was booked, but it was possible that could change,” he said.
Meanwhile some restaurants have turned to unusual ways to attract more diners in the shape of new outdoor dining pods.
Chef patron Joshua Green has spent £12,000 installing the structures at The Barn Restaurant at Terrington St John, near King’s Lynn. He said the investment was already paying off.
“Weekends, we’re booked up until the end of August and on Wednesday nights there are only three pods left for the whole of July,” he said.
“In London and America they have them on roof top bars. I saw them on The Embankment in London at Christmas.
“If people are worried about coming out again, they’re in their own little bubble.”
Mr Green, who has run The Barn for three years, has installed four six-seater pods and one two-seater in what was part of his car park.