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Industry prepares for another lockdown across England

Fish and chip takeaways and restaurants across England are once again adapting their businesses ready to handle a four-week lockdown which comes into effect from Thursday.

The latest government-imposed coronavirus restrictions will see restaurants close until at least Wednesday 2nd December although they may still provide takeaway and delivery services. The takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed, however. 

Fish and chip takeaways can also remain open to walk-in and click and collect customers, and delivery services can run as normal. 

Those businesses remaining open must follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers.

Despite gearing up to close his restaurants at Colmans Seafood Temple and Colmans Ocean Road in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, owner Richard Ord Jnr is optimistic as the takeaways remain open and home deliveries are reintroduced. 

Richard comments: "It was inevitable another lockdown was going to happen, I’m surprised it took this long actually. I’m glad we got the school holidays out of the way as that’s a busy period. I think in the hospitality industry in general, November is the quietest month for most people so I feel if we are going to do another lockdown, now is the right time. December is such a great month for us with Christmas so if we can get the infection rate down now, hopefully, we can have a good December. 

“I think we, and I don’t mean just us but the whole industry, is in a much better position going into this lockdown because we’ve had the time to focus on what to do should there be another one. Before, it took us three or four weeks to get online platforms made, whereas now we’re going to close for a day to a have a staff meeting and then Friday we’ll be back straight into click and collect and home delivery. We’ll keep the takeaway open too, serving from the hatch outside. 

“To be honest, with the colder months coming in, there are fewer people coming out for a takeaway anyway, so I’m hoping that with us being able to take fish and chips to people’s houses we might actually see an increase in business.”

Dan Harding, who owns Angel Lane Chippie takeaway and Sandgate Friery restaurant in Penrith, Cumbria, is also making changes ready for Thursday’s lockdown. He comments: “Last lockdown, we shut Angel Lane because it’s quite a small unit and we shifted everything into Sandgate because the way it is shaped we could easily work two metres apart. What we’re going to do now is keep Angel Lane open and go into two bubbles and work that way. If I close it there’s no financial help, other than furlough. 

“We’ve created a one-metre area inside the door for customers and we’re all behind perspex so, in theory, it’s serving at the door so we’re going to continue to do that. I can see most of our orders going back to click and collect though, we’ve already seen an increase in click and collect over the weekend. Plus we’ll do deliveries out of Sandgate and we’re going to increase that by going from five days a week to seven.”

Not all businesses feel they need to make changes, however. For Godfreys, which has two restaurants with takeaways in Harpenden and Bushey in Hertfordshire, it's business as usual as it continues with phone orders and serving at the door only. 

Owner Luke Godfrey comments: “We haven’t reopened the restaurants since the original lockdown and we’ve not let any customers back into the takeaways, we’ve just been taking phone orders and operating at the door for walk-in customers. We did close the takeaways for eight or nine weeks during the first lockdown, obviously we haven’t got to do that this time around as we have all the procedures in place now, so I’m a lot more confident going into this one. We’ve certainly learnt a lot and, if anything, we should have a busy month with all the restaurants closed, but I don’t think it’s going to be as busy as the first lockdown.”

Luke’s main concern now is how the weather will impact trade, adding: “It’s very different now we’re in winter. During the summer, customers were happy to wait outside when it was lovely, bright, warm evenings but now it’s dark and cold at 5 o’clock, that brings its own set of problems.”

Strad Kyriacou, owner of Chris’s Fish and Chips in Barwell, Leicester, also feels he has all bases covered, having invested heavily during the first lockdown in both COVID-secure measures for his takeaway as well as extra capacity for delivery and click and collect services. 

Strad comments: “I’m quite happy in the protocols we have in place, I actually think I have the most COVID-secure takeaway there is so I’m quite happy to carry on with walk-ins while also operating the click and collect and delivery side for those customers who prefer that option. 

“We should be busier because pubs and restaurants are closed, however, if you go onto Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat you’ll see a four times increase in the number of takeaways and restaurants on there now compared to the first lockdown. So we shouldn’t assume we’re going to be busier, shops still need to be on top of their game.”

Strad is encouraging shops to think smart, adding: “Don’t be afraid if you get busy again to cut your menu down. Think about stock, staffing levels and opening hours and make it work for you. And don’t forget, we’re all in this together and there is help out there, whether that’s government help or help from the industry.”

The government has announced an extension to the furlough scheme which will run in line with the four-week lockdown. It will continue to pay 80% of an employee’s wages up to a limit of £2,500, with employers required to pay national insurance, pension and holiday accruals. 

Flexible furlough is also being continued, which means if an employee works, the employer pays for those hours and the scheme will cover the remaining hours up to their usual amount.

The Job Support Scheme will now not be introduced until after Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.

For the current government guidance on the restrictions click here.

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