While consumers do have widespread concerns about returning to restaurants, the majority do not want to be served by teams in gloves and face masks, a survey conducted by Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing has found.
The survey, which was completed by 8,970 people, showed an appetite to dine out once again. Encouragingly, 54% of respondents said they would spend the same amount of money on dining out as they did before the government ordered a lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19, while 11% said they would spend more.
Wareing, behind London restaurants including the Michelin-starred Marcus at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge, the Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, and Tredwells in Covent Garden, said: "It was really nice to see that people are willing to come out and eat but there need to be some rules in place and a level of understanding.
"I think we're going to be in a difficult position to meet everybody's concerns and I think what we will need to do is look at the key points of the survey and put into place what we believe works for our individual restaurant or restaurants."
Diners were asked how concerned they were about dining out when lockdown is lifted on a scale of 1 to 10. Answers were spread relatively evenly across the scale with 44% of people selecting numbers one to five inclusively, however seven and eight were narrowly the most selected numbers at 14% and 15% respectively.
Similarly, when asked about particular areas of concern, all options listed received some votes, however no single issue made more than 36% of the recipients ‘very concerned'. Respondents were most worried about other guests, with 36% of people ‘very concerned' and 54% ‘somewhat concerned'.
Restaurant employees elicited a slightly less cautious response with 17% ‘very concerned' and 58% ‘somewhat concerned'. These feelings were borne out in the survey, where 60% said the option of a private dining room would make the prospect of dining out more attractive.
Guest bathrooms did emerge as a clear area where guests will require reassurance with 33% ‘very concerned' and 47% ‘somewhat concerned'. However, travelling to a venue and entering and exiting the dining room caused minimal worry with 48% saying they were ‘not concerned at all' in relation to either.
Additional hygiene measures will be expected when restaurants reopen and 74% of respondents said they would like to see temperature checks for staff at the beginning of each shift. Considerably less enthusiasm was shown for partitions between tables, which 41% said they would like to see, while a requirement for staff to wear gloves or masks was even less well received with 38% and 34% of people respectively saying they would like to see these measures. [This question did not ask about distancing between tables, expecting it to be a necessity under official guidelines.]
The feeling regarding PPE was welcome news to Wareing who added: "Staff wearing face masks and gloves was one thing I was dreading and I don't think I'll be expecting my staff to be putting a face mask on, although I think the temperature checks are a good idea."
Similarly, a large majority of guests said they would be ‘not be comfortable at all' with being asked to wear gloves or a mask (while not eating), with 65% and 62% opposing the suggestion respectively.
At the other end of the scale 91% were ‘very comfortable' with being asked to settle their bill via contactless payments and 81% were ‘very comfortable' with both a more informal style of service – including pouring their own wine - and using hand sanitiser before entering the dining room and throughout the meal.
The chef and restaurateur said that ultimately people will need to make informed decisions. "I think once we get a date to open and a plan for opening the key will be to tell our customers what we are offering and what the guidelines are for eating at the Barkley. I think once they can read that they can make a booking or choose to wait until further down the line."
To read a longer interview with Wareing see next week's edition of The Caterer.
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