Chantelle Nicholson celebrates the joy of reopening and praises how our teams have bounced back to offer true, safe hospitality.
Like a lot of you, I was awash with excitement to finally be able to go out last week. And what a joy it was! Despite the chill in the air, nothing could dampen the enjoyment of the eating-out experience, and the absolute joy of seeing so many places so busy.
I tried to remember the last time I was a guest at a restaurant, rather than cooking.
I think it must have been just before the second lockdown, as I was a little busy opening All's Well to be able to enjoy it any later than that. Last week's outings brought back so many reasons as to why I love – and I mean really love – the pleasure that restaurants and pubs et al bring.
I'm not sure what part I missed more – if it's the loveliness of not having to do much yourself (apart from decide what you want to eat and drink), or the enjoyment of that first sip of a crisp martini (that you have not had to make yourself, and clean up afterwards) or the novelty of having food set down in front of you (that you didn't make, and again, you don't have to deal with the aftermath!).
It has been great to see the vigilance and diligence to which everywhere has committed – not in a dictatorial way, more in a "we are all in this together and we really don't want to go into another lockdown" way. Facemasks on all the teams, sanitiser on tables and compulsory app check-in are all a norm.
This has not detracted from the very notion of what hospitality means: the friendly and generous reception of guests, visitors or strangers. The generosity of the teams giving their all, in rather unusual and challenging circumstances, was heart-warming. It gave me a huge sense of pride to be in an industry that has weathered this storm and come out stronger than ever.
From having to rethink entire menus for many reasons – ie, the kitchen is so far away from the dining area that hot food wouldn't stay hot – as well as the drinks offer – what is in stock that can be sold, to preserve much-needed cash reserves, rather than splashing out on some interesting new stuff – there are so many considerations into which time and thought has had to go.
Not to mention there are the team members who haven't worked since 16 December. That is almost four months of no service: no cooking, making coffee, entering items into an EPoS system, running up and down stairs, or even conversing with strangers. It is a lot to deal with at the best of times, not to mention after an emotionally draining year.
So please, let's rally together, support each other in every way we can and once again enjoy being able to be out, and the joy of what our industry is so, so good at: being hospitable in every which way.
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