Fish and chip restaurants that opened their doors on “Super Saturday” remain optimistic for the weeks ahead after reports of a steady weekend for most.
Saturday saw the likes of Deep Blue open seven of its sites in the south while Harry Ramsden’s opened five restaurants including Eastbourne and Blackpool all with a traffic light system telling customers which tables were clean and ready to use.
Papa’s Fish & Chips pulled up the shutters at its Willerby and Cleethorpes restaurants with a five-step plan that included hand sanitiser at the door, ordering at the table and a one-way system around the restaurant.
The Magpie Cafe in Whitby, meanwhile, let people back up its steps by way of a virtual queue with staff members taking customer details at the door and calling back when a table became available.
John Molnar welcomed customers back to all four Cod’s Scallops with social distancing measures in place meaning the restaurant was trading at 70% capacity. With a pager system to alert customers when tables were ready, as well as ordering at the table, customers were in and out quickly while staff visits to tables were minimised. Estimating sales to be down by about 30% down, John said it was to be expected.
He comments: “The restaurant wasn't that busy, but I didn’t think it would be, and the takeaway was still very busy. I think because the pubs were open everybody had their fill that way.
“We opened safely, I was confident we had all the measures in place and the shop looked really good with the windbreakers dividing the tables. I think the people we had in were glad we reopened and we had the technology to get them in and out quickly. This week will be a good marker as people are a little bit wary still and rightly so.”
It was a similar story at Quayside in Whitby, which traded at about 60% of normal capacity. Owner Stuart Fusco said: “It was a steady start, I think a lot of people were nervous about coming out. There were plenty of people about but the restaurant was steady, it was nice because we didn’t get overwhelmed. We took the decision not to open our bar on Saturday, we didn't think that was the right thing to do.
“There were a few staff who were apprehensive to start with but after the first day they were more than happy. Sunday was a bit busier, there were a few more people about.
“Hopefully people will get more confident coming out and that we see a steady build all week as we need to take some money. This is our high season. We were definitely down on last year, we just didn’t have the volume of people, but we wouldn’t have wanted that anyway.
“It was good for opening under the circumstances we are in.”
New business Codrophenia, which only opened on Dalton Park Retail Outlet in Durham in January, also welcomed back customers although trade was 60% down.
Steve Norcross, one of three directors, comments: “We went with 1.5m social distancing and were fortunate as it meant we only had to go down to 52 covers from 54. Trade-wise we did 84 covers on Saturday. Yesterday was a little bit quieter we probably only did about 43 covers. It’s not bad, considering not all the shops are open yet. We need the footfall for the customers to come through.”
Describing it as a great feeling to be back, Steve adds: “We’ve been shut longer than we have been open. We only opened on 8th January and it was 11 weeks in when we had to close. We were just hitting that wave of people coming back and getting good reviews when trade fell off a cliff. But we had some regulars come back in on Saturday and a couple in again yesterday and they were pleased to see we were open.
“It’s the start of a first full week so it’s tender feet at the moment. We’ll see how we go.”
Rockfish, meanwhile, reopened its Plymouth restaurant where the outdoor area proved particularly popular. Owner Mitch Tonks comments: "It’s under cover, you order and pay via the Rockfish app and so it’s very simple and people feel very reassured.
"We had really positive comments from many regulars coming back. We weren’t at capacity but there was a constant stream of customers so it was good for everyone to have time to adjust to the new normals. We’re looking at opening up in Exmouth, Exeter, Poole and Brixham over the coming weeks."
More fish and chip restaurants will be welcoming customers back this week with Wetherby Whaler’s Guiseley site making a return today, Bizzie Lizzie's two sites in Skipton, North Yorkshire, reopening on Wednesday and The Scallop Shell in Bath on Thursday.