From nervous diners to new health and safety protocols, SA’s restaurateurs are facing a fresh wave of challenges as they kick-start their businesses after being given the government green light to reopen for sit-down meals.
Here, some of the globe’s top chefs and bartenders — whose establishments all rank on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants lists — share their advice on what needs to be done for restaurants to thrive through this crucial next stage of pandemic recovery:
1. GIVE FOOD FAIR VALUE
With a restaurant focused on giving value to humble, local products such as potatoes and carrots, Clare Smyth of Core by Clare Smyth in London has always educated her guests about good farming practices and quality ingredients but her “pet hate” is when restaurants undercut each other with low prices, undervaluing the quality and labour behind each dish.
Now, more than ever, she says, diners need to be willing to pay a fair price for their meals to support restaurants and producers.
“As restaurants, we now have the opportunity to make people understand the real value of things because for many years in the hospitality industry, everything was a race to the bottom,” she says.
“Businesses won’t survive if people don’t understand the value. People need to appreciate the hospitality industry more now, especially given what it’s gone through. It’s about fair trade in the food trade.”
2. RECONNECT WITH LOCALS
Like many of the restaurants on the World’s 50 best Restaurants lists, Tegui in Buenos Aires, Argentina, relies on a large proportion of customers from overseas, and with travel restrictions in place, those destination diners won’t be returning any time soon.
In the meantime, chef-owner Germán Martitegui says restaurants can adjust their menus for local diners, perhaps with more simple dish options as the world returns to some level of normality.
As travel picks up, he expects to see diners from neighbouring South American countries before welcoming those from further afield.
3. LOOK AFTER ALL-ROUND WELLNESS OF STAFF
After restaurant Hiša Franko reopened in early June after three months of lockdown in Slovenia, self-taught chef Ana Roš says she and her team were “vulnerable and emotionally crushed”. Now her staff are “learning how to walk again” and Roš believes it is vital for chefs and restaurateurs to look after their team members’ mental health.
“Restarting normal life after lockdown with such a strong rhythm as we have in the restaurant business is really difficult,” she says. “Take care of your people as well as you take care of yourself because everyone has different fears and uncertainties.”
4. OFFER IMPECCABLE SERVICE
As one of the countries praised for its successful handling of the coronavirus crisis, South Korea set an example for the rest of the world. Its bars and restaurants avoided total shutdown by implementing early safety measures, including contact tracing and widespread testing.
At Charles H in Seoul, head bartender Keith Motsi has reorganised the space so that tables are further apart and technology makes processes more efficient, but he has also adjusted his service to accommodate the increase in older, local customers who might have sweeter palates or prefer their music a little less loud.
Reading your guests is key, he says, and while it may be easy to forget about good service when focusing on safety and hygiene, it’s important that social distancing measures don’t hinder the guest’s experience.
• This is an adapted extract of an article titled ’10 commandments for reopening restaurants and bars after coronavirus’, which was republished with permission from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ website. Visit theworlds50best.com to read the full article.
WORLD’S 50 BEST RESTAURANTS HOSTS GLOBE’S BIGGEST GASTRONOMIC AUCTION
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organisation will be hosting a “Bid for Recovery” auction online from July 3 to 12, where you can bid on all sorts of once-in-a-lifetime culinary experiences and rare food items.
The funds raised will go towards helping the global hospitality industry recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars will be able to apply for direct financial assistance, while some of the proceeds will also be donated to charitable organisations such the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund in SA.