Both customers and restaurateurs are desperate to get back to service after the long months of coronavirus lockdown. However, for some including Sat Bains, the time is just not right.
When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the way was open for pubs and restaurants to start trading on the 4th of July, there was jubilation among the county’s restaurant owners and furloughed hospitality workers. The signs are that customers are raring to get back to dining out, as reduced capacity and a surge in bookings means restaurant tables are in great demand.
However, even with reduced capacity, there are worries about the risks of reopening. The threat of infection and the spectre of an imminent second wave mean, for some chefs, it’s just not worth it.
Sat Bains, chef-owner at his eponymous two-Michelin-star restaurant in Nottingham, said that the idea of having no reservations in the coming months is a scary prospect, but the risks of opening too soon outweigh any benefits.
“It’s all pending on if there’s no second wave,” he told BigHospitality.
“I don’t want to be a doomsayer, but I’m being cautious because the one thing I don’t want is to open and then subsequently have to close again." - Sat Bains
“It’s both a sad and stressful time, but by remaining closed for now we have a very rare opportunity to look at what we do in the restaurant and reflect on certain elements of the experience. And it’s giving us as a team the chance to think about how we can do it better.”
Bains is looking at an August/September opening but insists he is staying flexible to be able to see how the situation unfolds. All going well, Sat Bains will open in mid-August.
Another high-profile restaurant to remain closed for the summer is French chef Claude Bosi’s Bibendum, in Chelsea’s Michelin House. The-two-Michelin star chef believes that low tourist numbers, Londoners holidaying in other parts of the UK, and reduced capacity all combine to make it not worth reopening on July 4th.
“We need a turnover of £200,000 a month to break even,” he told BigHospitality.
"I don’t think London is going to be busy enough to keep the whole thing going. My wage bill is high”.
The UK, one of the worst affected countries by the coronavirus with over 43,000 deaths, has seen a drop in cases from the height at the end of April. However, mixed messages from the government, the absence of a functioning track-and-trace system, and a spell of unusually good weather, which has seen thousands of people flock to the beaches, means the prospect of a ‘second wave’ remains very real.