The hospitality sector has been knocked sideways by lockdown and it’s going to be tough for it to recover.
As some restaurants tentatively reopen their doors once more, Jo Rees finds a few ways that we, as customers, can help. After all, you don’t want to be left with just chain restaurants, do you?
1. Splash the cash
If your bank balance hasn’t been hit too hard by lockdown you could consider going out to support your local restaurants as a kind of socio-economic balancing. Even the super-rich are asking to be taxed in order to help pay for the economic damage that Covid-19 has wreaked.
You don’t have to be in that club to spread a little love and, if you’re shielding or if the restaurant is fully booked due to restricted covers, splurge on a takeaway instead. Many great restaurants are keeping their takeaway service going alongside their usual restaurant service as a way of making up for lost revenue. Find out what your local faves are doing– and check out our list here. And don’t skimp on the tip.
2. Don’t be ‘that guy’
You know, the one who moans to waiting staff about everything – and usually loudly enough to claim the attention of every other diner in a ten-metre radius. Cut the restaurant team some slack: menus are going to change daily and certain dishes may not be available due to supply chain issues, so graciously choose something else instead and be glad that it’s not you doing the cooking or washing up. Service may be a bit slower due to the challenges of social distancing and new systems, but give the front of house team a break, smile and be patient – everyone will have a nicer evening for it.
3. Leave your credit card deets
Booking is essential nowadays, but some people are stuck in a REALLY bad habit of not turning up. If this was a royal pain for restaurateurs in the old days, it’s financially catastrophic now. Margins are greaseproof paper-thin and ‘no shows’ can result in the entire restaurant team working a shift for nothing. Leave your credit card details and be prepared to be billed if you don’t cancel or rearrange in advance. Think of it as a tax on rudeness.
4. Don’t expect a slice of the VAT cut
From July 15, 2020 until January 12, 2021 restaurants, cafes and pubs will enjoy a temporary reduction in VAT (from 20 per cent to 5 per cent). This is not a gift for you. It’s designed to encourage you to eat out and the restaurant to recover after they’ve been paying bills throughout lockdown without any money coming in. This is their opportunity, provided by the government, to stave off potential closure, pay money they owe other businesses and keep their team employed. Asking for your slice of the pie is at best inconsiderate, at worst insulting.
5. Support the indies
Local independent restaurants don’t have the benefit of big backers and investors who can afford to bankroll the bad times. Those that are still going are probably clinging on by their nervously chewed fingertips. They provide jobs, are often the hubs of our communities, support other small producers and suppliers and are a vital link in the chain of our ‘real food’ culture. So, if you’re going to spend anywhere, spend it with them.
6. Rediscover the familiar
You don’t have to be sitting on the seafront in Palermo sipping Grillo from nearby vineyards to have a summer holiday dining experience. We tend to be a bit unimpressed by our own food culture when we compare it to that of our continental neighbours. Yet tourists travel from all over the world to visit the lush Devon countryside, Cornish fishing villages and the golden stone inns of rural Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
It’s time to reconnect with the magic on our doorstep by looking at it with new eyes. Check out the Trencherman’s Guide for the ultimate list of top-end South West dining experiences that’ll rival the best of San Sebastián.