Michelin-starred restaurant the Raby Hunt in Darlington is to scrap weekday lunch services from October in an attempt to improve staff quality of life and creativity among its chefs.
Chef patron James Close said he hoped the decision would boost morale, reduce staff turnover, and would also pave the way for the introduction of a new "development menu" of completely new dishes, devised by the chefs during the time they would previously have been doing a lunch service.
Explaining his decision, Close told The Caterer: "We have been open for six years next week and the idea came along because creative side of the restaurant had started to decrease a bit because we don't have any time to do it and we don't have a development kitchen.
"Because we are only a small restaurant, we can only afford a certain amount of staff, and the staff that were working with us were ending up having to work on every service. It was just getting to the point basically where we were all doing too many hours."
Staff will still be paid the same wages, and no posts will be cut as a result of the changes.
"When you look at it from a business level, we don't have many overheads and when you decide to close for lunch, yes you are not going to take as much money during the week, but at the same time you won't have to pay for the extra food," Close said.
"You might not take as much money but I want a better standard of life for the people that work here, especially the guys who have been with me for six years, in particular the sous chef and the main front of house guy. I want to show them that I appreciate they have stayed with me and now they can enjoy a bit more freedom."
That freedom will allow Close and his team to create the five-course development menu which will be served on a Sunday at the end of each month. It will consist of entirely new dishes that don't feature on the regular menu and will be cooked by Close and just one other chef who has volunteered to work that day.
The move echoes restaurateurs Sat and Amanda Bains' plans, announced in July this year, to switch to a four-day week in order to improve the working conditions for staff.
Opening from Wednesday through to Saturday only, the change in hours will be introduced in November and is the latest in a series of developments from the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms. In June, the pair launched Nucleus, a new dining concept housed in Sat's development kitchen.
The couple said that they had made their decision after extensive research consulting with fellow industry leaders and gleaning financial information from their advisors. Staff will gain 48 days per year more in leisure time and will see no decrease in their current salaries or benefits. The move will, however, mean that the couple will potentially be worse off by a six-figure sum.
Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms to introduce four-day week >>