José Pizarro has praised Eat Out to Help Out for reigniting the hospitality industry and said he is considering continuing the initiative into October.
The chef-restaurateur, who operates José Tapas Bar and Pizarro Restaurant on Bermondsey Street, said the area had been "busier than Piccadilly" during August and that recent operational challenges had been "teaching us a lot as a person, as a business".
He told The Caterer: "It's all about the customer, that is all. To please the people. When we were closed it's what it taught me – to make people happy."
"Sometimes in business we get very complicated with menus. What the government did was very, very clever – by saying £10 off, straightway it's easy for us and easy for customers."
The Spanish chef, together with Angela Hartnett, who operates neighbouring Café Murano Bermondsey as well as Michelin-starred Murano in Mayfair, rallied other operators in the area, including the Garrison, French bistro Casse-Croûte and ramen specialist Hakata, to extend the scheme out of their own pockets.
The initiative aims to boost businesses going into the winter months by offering 50% off meals up to the value of £10 per person on Monday to Wednesday.
Pizarro added: "If September goes well, I'm happy to do it in October. The more people who come to the area the better.
"The hospitality industry is very important to the government, we are a huge industry. If restaurants do not work, bakeries, fishmongers and butchers do not work – they are all linked. At the end of the day, we need to bring back the economy."
During lockdown Pizarro reformatted his tapas bar into a shop, rolling out a collection of ‘finish at home' meals via a series of ‘how to' videos and developed more than 20 new tapas dishes.
The former executive chef of Tapas Brindisa in Borough Market opened José Tapas Bar on Bermondsey Street in 2011. He said he was drawn to the area and "loved the vibe".
He added: "Thank god Angela came to the area! I love her style."
Operators on the south London street, which is known for its cluster of independent restaurants and bars, hope that the campaign will continue to drive footfall and spread the community spirit.
Adam Jay, head chef at Café Murano Bermondsey, which is also extending the Eat Out to Help Out, agreed that the scheme had "completely transformed" business during August with sales "beyond our dreams", which included a record-breaking 412 covers on August bank holiday Monday.
Jay, who has worked with Hartnett across the three Café Murano sites for nine years, told The Caterer he was feeling optimistic for the rest of the month. "Hopefully it will build momentum and drive more people to the area. It's a nice neighbourhood feel."
"We've never had a summer here. We missed spring, which is very frustrating as a chef."
Café Murano, which also operates in London's Covent Garden and St James's and had pivoted to a deli-shop and takeaway during lockdown. The Bermondsey Street site, which opened in 2019, has since launched a weekend brunch menu which features dishes including chicken Milanese bun with slow-roasted tomatoes.
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