There are two dates I will never forget in 2020 – 19th March and 6th July. I distinctly remember the restaurant getting quieter and quieter in the weeks leading up to lockdown and then the night of the 19th when my staff and I sat in the bar and watched Boris Johnson makes his announcement. We had to close. The question was whether we could continue running a takeaway business. It turned out that we could, and although the next week was a little bumpy, it soon became clear that nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught of the takeaway nation!
Within 14 days our takeaway business went up four fold. We rapidly had to hire new staff and adapt to the new operational requirements. More phone calls meant more telephone lines and more staff to handle them. More orders meant more delivery drivers. More food meant more staff in the kitchen. But if this was the new normal we needed to make more fundamental changes. We revamped the kitchen and invested in more equipment to create a more production line approach. We converted the bar to a takeaway call centre. We instilled best practices for keeping staff, customers and food safe. And even with all this going on we still had trouble keeping up with orders, so we created new processes for packing orders to make the kitchen more efficient. To give you an idea, we used to buy 70 to 90kg of fresh chicken a week, we were now buying 150kg. It’s a good measure of our ‘busyness’.
As you all know, along with a couple of members of our local community we created a partnership with the Gillingham Street Angels, cooking and supplying 130 meals a week as well as being a conduit for food and clothing donations. Some incredible work was done by the Parkwood Community – thank you once again.
After a manic April, May saw things start to settle down and as we went through June we could see that we needed to start to get the restaurant ready to open again. We converted a store room at the back of the restaurant into the new permanent home for our takeaway call centre and emptied the bar to completely redecorate it. Now that has finished we are on the final touches of converting the dining room back to the lovely place that it is after being used as a storage facility for our stock!
Just today, Friday, we finally got approval to dispose of our old beer, managed to get the beer lines cleaned by Clear Brew and have connected Fosters and Cobra to our system. We’re still waiting for deliveries of Malabar and Kingfisher. Waking up the giants of industry clearly takes a while!
We have also invested in an app called QTAP which will allow our customers to order food and drink on their phones directly from their tables and we have now partnered with OpenTable for our online reservation system. In these last few days we still have a little more work to do with signage.
Over the weekend I will be briefing staff on how we will serve drinks and food. Its all very new for us and it’s a balance with meeting legislation and still giving our customers the experience they deserve, but being safe for us and our customers has to be our number one priority. I have no idea how customers will behave or respond – its new to everyone, and so 6th July makes me a little anxious. With 2 or 3 days to go we will be making sure every glass is spotless and every bottle is full, every corner of the dining room is cleaned and every light shade sparkling.
I truly can’t wait to see you all, my Chef Abul and his team can’t wait to put amazing food on your plates, and my front of house team can’t wait to give you the best and safest possible service they can. And hey, if you’re a little unsure about coming in or need re-assurance, I’m only a phone call or a message away. And if you still would rather stay at home, you can still order a takeaway and we’ll be more than happy for you to collect it or have it delivered.
Thank you so much for supporting us during lockdown – now it’s our turn to look after you