Not long now until we begin the gradual re-opening of our restaurants and cafés! We can’t wait to be serving customers again. Whether it’s a catch-up with family at Oyster Box, a get-together with workmates at Jersey Crab Shack or a long-overdue date night at Banjo – and possibly even a room for the night  – we know all our customers are keen to book a table or even grab that coffee on the way to work at Café Ubé  as WFH comes to an end.

As we enter the next stage of Level 2 of unlock, it’s wonderful to be thinking about the future rather than focusing on the immediate challenges of running a business that was forced to close for several months with no revenues. However, despite the announcement that restaurants and cafés will be able to open with one metre socially-distanced indoor dining from June 26th and accommodate multi-household tables,  JPRestaurants won’t be re-opening for a few more weeks.

The main reason for the delay is that we want to do all we can to ensure we protect the health of our customers, team members and all islanders and to ensure we are around for the long term by giving the greatest confidence to our customers.  We also want to make sure we can continue to offer a fun experience, despite the new health guidelines.

The new guidelines from the Government of Jersey Environmental Health were only released a few weeks ago, and we are taking the time to put in place the necessary procedures, training and infrastructure to ensure we manage the continued health risk posed by Covid. The challenge now is not Government restrictions, but rather making sure customers and our staff have the confidence to be in our restaurants in the event that the infection rate starts to rise. This will be a risk for at least the next six to 12 months, so we want to be certain we have everything in place to address any concerns before we open.  Surveys suggest many customers will be nervous dining out when restrictions are eased and will want as much reassurance as possible that the health aspects of visiting a busy restaurant or café have been addressed.

We are currently making modifications to our restaurants and cafés before we reopen, as well as introducing new technology to help keep our staff and customers safe.

Like many restaurant operators around the world, we believe operating within the health guidelines will be challenging.  Re-opening therefore needs to be carefully thought through to ensure we can operate sustainably. Having already suffered significant distress since closure, many restaurants won’t be able to survive operating at a loss under social distancing and with lower consumer confidence; something they may have to do for up to a year until a vaccine is found.

Long before the Government announcements about the easing of restrictions, we started working on plans to re-open. We always knew we would have a transitional period operating under social distancing after unlock and in many ways this period will be a greater challenge than being closed.  In deciding what approach to take, we have looked at the Jersey guidelines as well as the sector-specific protocols being developed in the UK by employee representatives, businesses and Health & Safety executive and Public Health England.  We will continue to monitor best practice and if the UK guidelines are stricter or more detailed than those issued in Jersey, we may decide to follow them if they offer a higher level of protection. We have a similar approach with our allergen processes and follow stricter EU regulations, which are not in place in Jersey. We believe this provides re-assurance to our customers.

We adopted a similar approach before lockdown. We followed closely developments of the virus around the world and decided, for the protection of our team and customers, to close before lockdown was imposed. During this period we developed many processes to protect staff and customers against the risk of coronavirus. These were introduced over a month before legal lockdown before any restrictions were in place and we know from feedback many customers felt re-assured by this cautious approach.

We are building on these protective measures for when we re-open. We have planned an even greater focus on cleanliness, such as offering menu items with fewer manual interventions or chefs involved in their preparation and of course temperaure checks and PPE equipment for our team and, where appropriate, customers.  We will also introduce measures to reduce contact between customers and our team such as safety screens at tills, optional self-scanning of purchases and cashless payment at Café Ubé. All our outlets will have quick and anonymous automatic temperature checking for all staff, visitors and customers so we can identify anyone at risk of passing on infections to others.

In our restaurants we will have the ability for customers to view menus, order and pay online via their own mobile phones sending the order immediately to our kitchen screen.  We’ll have a sanitized tablet for those who don’t have a smart phone. This will minimise touch-contact and risk of infection across customers and our team.

We have also redesigned restaurant layout, movement flow and seating to ensure we can respect social distancing requirements and this will be carefully marked with new signage. We will also have the ability to offer Click & Collect orders in Café Ubé and  Jersey Crab Shack. And we have looked at our menus and updated recipes to ensure they are best suited for when we re-open. There will also be new packaging and recipes for those dishes that can be ordered by Click & Collect.

We believe it will be late July or early August before our first outlets re-open. This time will be needed to provide internal modifications, updated menus and training to cover enhanced hygiene measures and implement the new techology we are putting in place to provide a great customer experience when we re-open our doors. Initially we plan to open Jersey Crab Shack St Helier and our three Café Ubé outlets which will both enable us to offer Click & Collect food and drinks and also café deliveries to town.

The other Jersey Crab Shack restaurants in St Brelade and Gorey, as well as Banjo and Oyster Box, will follow at a later date once we have ironed out all the issues that may arise from opening in the “new normal”. That way we can ensure all our customers and staff stay safe and continue to experience a wonderul time when they visit us again.

Please follow us on our social media channels to keep up-to-date with our re-opening plans. Until we see you again please keep safe. We miss you all and can’t wait to be serving you again.