When will we open again?
We can’t wait to be serving customers again and to see their happy faces as they enjoy a get-together with family and friends. Whether it’s a catch-up with family at Oyster Box, party 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 islanders are itching to see the world return to normal. Even grabbing that coffee on the way to work at Café Ubé will be magical.
The first steps of unlock have been announced by our Government and it’s wonderful to be thinking about the future rather than focusing on the immediate challenges of running a business that has been forced to close with no revenues. But despite the announcement that restaurants, pubs and cafés will be able to offer al fresco dining from 12 May, JPRestaurants, along with some other hospitality businesses in Jersey, won’t be re-opening next week.
Some of our loyal customers may ask why we aren’t racing to open our doors? The main reason is that we want to do all we can to ensure we protect the health of our customers, team members and all islanders. Guidelines from the Government of Jersey environmental health are only planned to be released on 8 May and we will need more time to ensure we have the necessary procedures, training and infrastructure in place to ensure we manage the continued health risk posed by the coronavirus.
We also anticipate that the social distancing guidelines for restaurants and cafés will restrict capacity significantly as well as impact on customer experience. Surveys suggest many customers will be nervous dining out and will want as much re-assurance as possible that the health aspects of visiting a busy restaurant or café have been addressed. Many UK restaurant operators have said that operating with social distancing will be challenging. Re-opening therefore needs to be carefully thought through to ensure hospitality businesses can operate sustainably. Having already suffered significant distress since closure six weeks ago, many won’t be able to survive operating at a loss under social distancing. Something they may have to do for up to a year until a vaccine is found.
Long before the Government announcement, 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 will be looking 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. 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 the period before lockdown we also developed many processes to protect staff and customers against the risk of coronavirus. These were introduced over a month before legal lockdown and we know from feedback many customers felt re-assured by this cautious approach.
We intend to build on these protective measures for when we re-open. Ideas we are working on include an even greater focus on cleanliness such as offering menu items that 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 many take-away items and cashless payment in Café Ubé. 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. This will minimise touch-contact and risk of infection across customers and our team. We are also looking at restaurant layout, movement flow and seating to ensure we can respect social distancing requirements. We will also have the ability to offer Click & Collect orders in Café Ubé and we may trial this in Jersey Crab Shack.
We believe it will take us at least three to four weeks from the issuance of detailed guidelines to be able to re-open our first outlet. This time will be needed to provide internal modifications, refresher training to our team, new training to cover the protective processes we put in place and also to ensure we can order and supply everything we need to provide a great customer experience when we re-open our doors. We are first aiming to open Café Ubé which will enable us to offer take-away food and drinks and also deliveries to town. We will then look to our other restaurants once the details for Level 2 have been announced and we are able to open the interiors of our restaurants and not just offer al fresco dining due to the challenges of operating with uncertain weather and reduced capacity. We are likely to start with Jersey Crab Shack St Helier and then if it is before the end of summer, the other Jersey Crab Shack restaurants in St Brelade and Gorey. Banjo and Oyster Box will follow at a later date.
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.