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Business as normal as takeaways tackle tighter restrictions

It’s business as normal for the majority of fish and chip takeaways across England and Scotland as they prepare to open today under strengthened COVID restrictions.

Both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced nationwide lockdowns last night, once again forcing hospitality businesses to close.

Takeaways can stay open, however, serving food and non-alcoholic drinks to walk-in, click-and-collect and drive-through customers. Delivery of food and drink (including alcohol) can also continue.

Face coverings and physical distancing rules must be followed and restaurants can also still operate as takeaways.

For Sea Salt + Sole in Dyce, Aberdeen, systems are already in place from the first lockdown, which means no interruptions to business this time around.

Gillian Pirie, who owns the takeaway with husband Rikki, comments: “During the first lockdown last year, we closed for several weeks while we moved to an online ordering system. This time we’re staying open but we have stopped walk-ins to keep the staff safe and we’re doing click and collect only. We’ve also adjusted the counter so customers don’t even have to come into the shop, they come straight to the door where the food is ready and off they go.

“It’s not an ideal situation but we’re a lot more organised this time, there’s not the same stress there was before. We’ve been there, done it.”

For John Molnar, owner of The Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham, his takeaways will open today in exactly the same way as it did yesterday.

John comments: “We don’t let anyone in our shop, we take orders at the door using a tablet, we provide a brolly if it’s raining or if customers want to wait in their cars we’ll bring the food out, so we’ll continue to do that. For us, it’s business as usual.

“We talked about whether we needed to change our opening hours, but we know what we’re doing and the systems are in place. Footfall has been a little bit quieter on Mondays and Tuesdays but maybe with more people staying at home we might pick up a bit more trade.”

With the lockdown restrictions looking like they could run into March and even beyond, John is concerned about the impact on his restaurants, especially as it’s likely they will remain closed for Easter.

“With furlough running to the end of April, in my head I wasn’t expecting my restaurants realistically to be open again until May,” he says. “But this lockdown pretty much confirms that, which means we’ll have lost Good Friday again. That’s a massive hit for the fish and chip industry, that’s two years on the bounce we’ve missed one of the busiest days of our year.

"But we are where we are. I just hope the systems are in place that were in the first lockdown. I want to see supermarkets insisting on one person, one trolley, I want to see trollies being sanitised, and garden centres and DIY stores closed, just as they were in the first lockdown. The sooner we do that, the sooner we’ll be out of this.”

Krispies in Exmouth, Devon, has closed to walk-ins as of today, with customers being asked to place their orders online for click and collect and delivery or via telephone for those that can’t access online order.

Owner Kelly Barnes comments: “Closing to walk-ins is the most responsible decision to make at this time for my area - I appreciate every area is different - and I will review that in the coming weeks. At most, we might go back to taking orders on the door, but I just think we shouldn’t be encouraging people to come out and get a takeaway.

“In my eyes, this lockdown is no different from the first one. In fact, we need to be taking it more seriously than the first one. We need to be supporting our community and leading the way in our area.”

Welcoming the tighter restrictions, Kelly adds: “Last week was one of our busiest weeks since before lockdown, it felt like a normal week in normal times, and it petrified me. You can tell when people have travelled an hour, an hour and a half - which is bad enough - but when they’re coming from a tier four area to a tier three area, which we were last week, it just didn’t seem right.”

For Shap Chippy in Shap, Cumbria, today is the business’s first day back after being closed for the festive period. Walking straight back into lockdown, co-owner Matt Phillips has reduced the menu slightly along with staffing levels and opening hours but says the takeaway will still be operating at 80% of its normal openings.

Matt adds: “Like most good fish and chip shops our systems have been in place since February - the screens are up, the sanitiser is out, we do health checks every day for the staff - the only thing we are doing is pushing more people to online ordering. We are still letting people into the shop, but we’re doing one-in, one-out and that’s mainly because we are in an area where we have an older demographic, so a lot of people who don’t and can’t use online ordering. As much as we want to push that, and 80% of our orders are online, we also want to support the elderly and still allow them to enjoy their fish and chips.”

The chippy’s two mobile vans are going out as usual on their normal routes although staff will be asking customers to wear face masks while queuing.

“The vans are a lifeline to a lot of people in the surrounding villages and we get some people ordering two takeaways, one for today and one for tomorrow,” adds Matt.

The government has just announced one-off top up grants for hospitality businesses affected by the new restrictions worth up to £9,000 per property to help them through to the Spring. They can be applied for via your Local Authority.

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