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How will Tooting restaurants adapt when re-opening?

How will Tooting restaurants adapt when re-opening?

2020-07-03 
| by Georgie Lee | Posted in Food & Drink
  

Local trainee journalist Georgie Lee is speaking to residents, organisations and businesses in Tooting to see how they're adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the second of a series, she talks to three business owners in the hospitality industry about how they’ll adapt for their re-opening on Saturday 4th July.

On 25th June the government announced that pubs and restaurants in England could re-open from 4th July. After a 14-week closure, restaurants in Tooting are adjusting to the new measures and planning their next moves. 

Upper Tooting Road’s Spice Village has been operating via takeaway and Deliveroo since lockdown began. 

“We realised we would just be losing our customers if we shut our doors,” says Arfan Javid, Manager. “The decision to remain open for takeaway was made easier by the fact that we trusted our employees to tell us if they weren’t feeling well and needed to take time off.”

But with new guidelines delivered over the last two weeks, Spice Village is aiming to re-open its doors to customers on Saturday in the safest way possible. 
 

  

“Even though we didn’t strictly close during lockdown we’ve still been overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs doing for re-opening. We’ve deep cleaned the whole restaurant using an external cleaning company – they disinfected every part of the restaurant, which took nearly 5 days.”

Similarly, Paul Williamson (owner of The Good Neighbour restaurant and wine bar in Tooting Broadway) has announced plans for limiting capacity to twenty-two people when it re-opens for the first time since March.

“We’re fully booked for Saturday,” says Paul. “We’ll have no more than twenty-two people in at a time and our neighbours have made space available to us outside so we’ll be able to spread out.”
 

  

The government’s advice on how restaurants should re-open is still developing. On June 24th it announced that changes to shift patterns, mandatory table service and an increased use of hand sanitiser should be among the measures implemented by restaurants. 

But reactions to the new measures have been mixed. Founder of successful sourdough pizza chain Mamma Dough, Jacob Harrison, says that their restaurants will not be opening their doors just yet. 

“A large customer demographic for us is families, often containing vulnerable people,” says Jacob, “the very young and elderly and pregnant mums to be. We have to do the right thing and remain closed.”

“For now we will continue operating through Deliveroo, take away and through our click and collect app. Our 35% discount for the NHS will also remain.”

Jacob notes that it’s been tricky adopting new government measures at every step of the way and it does not make good business sense to do so. 

“The rules keep changing. We’re just going to go at our own pace. The health and safety of our staff and our customers is our main concern.”

Spice Village has taken thorough steps to ensure that both customers and staff will be co-existing in a safe environment. 

Arfan says, “We’ve completely restructured our table layout and reduced our capacity by 30%. All tables are now one metre plus apart. In the kitchen we are pushing for the two metre rule during the day and the one metre plus distance during the evening service.” 

All Spice Village employees have been trained to work side by side rather than face to face.

“They’ll have scattered shift times, there will be temperature screenings and all employees are told to wash their hands every 15 minutes.”

“Our customer waiting area is completely closed. Guests and takeaway visitors will have to wait outside or under our awning when weather is not on our side.”

So how are restaurants feeling about opening on Saturday? 

“The restrictions will make for a difficult trading platform. But we’re ready to roll with the punches and come out stronger the other side,” says Paul, who’s Tooting restaurant only enjoyed a couple of weeks open before it was forced to close. 

Similarly, Mamma Dough opened its Tooting location for the first time amid the crisis and closed again quickly. “The opening of a restaurant is so important,” explains Jacob, “and unfortunately, our Tooting location was only able to initially open for two weeks.”
 

  

Mamma Dough plans to review its current decision to remain closed on a weekly basis. The branch has enjoyed success with its takeaway service and hopes to continue to do so. 

“We’ve been lucky. We’ve been able to re-open on a take-away model,” says Jacob, “and when we do re-open our doors the layout of our restaurants will work in our favour. All our sites are dine-in restaurants with open plan kitchens that allow lots of personal space and air flow.”

Jacob plans to open for private dining so that one family, plus their Covid-19 bubble, can come in and eat safely: “We’ll have more control this way,” he says. 

The Tooting community is likely to support local restaurants when they re-open.

“Throughout lockdown we received so much support from our surrounding community in Tooting,” says Paul. “A lot of locals have shown genuine concern for our well-being and survival. It’s been touching to say the least.’’


If you'd like to learn more about Georgie and her work, please email georgia.lee97@icloud.com or see her LinkedIn profile.
 

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