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  • The Low Down


No soothsayer, crystal ball gazer, clairvoyant or psychic could have predicted what has devastatingly unfolded, on a global basis, over the past 12 months. Today, just one year later, new words, acronyms and expressions dominate our everyday language, which previously had no meaning, at least not in the restaurant business. Now we have WFH, PPE, family bubbles, curb-side pick-up, no-contact tap and, of course, covidiots. Customers order their food by phone and collect it wearing a mask, often idiosyncratically styled. We have learnt to look at their eyes, the windows to the soul, and try to recognize their voices.

Twelve months ago we had 14 members of staff — today we have four. Our sales have plummeted by almost 60 per cent. As owners, we haven’t taken a wage since April last year so that we can afford to pay our remaining staff — not a single customer has sat down for a meal in our restaurant since the COVID pandemic began. Very quickly we realized that we were going to go down the tubes unless we took positive action. Not many restaurants carry enough surplus cash to survive a prolonged dry spell — it is a business that relies on cash flow. Turnover. A week or maybe two with no revenue and then it’s time to lock the door and throw away the key. We had to reinvent ourselves and quickly.

We decided to turn our popular little sit-down into a takeaway. We used our savings to redecorate and brighten up our image, install Plexiglas PPE screens, put in a new pick-up/ takeaway-friendly counter and point of sales system. It took us seven days to complete the transformation and we were open again offering a park ’n’ pick-up curb-side service. We created a new web-based menu, but our staple fish ’n’ chips remains the firm favourite. Has been since 2008. We looked at delivery, but companies such as Skip The Dishes and Uber are currently not servicing this area — anyway, we preferred to try to stay face-to-face with our customers and hope that good food, a smile and friendly service would do the tri