After a very long three months, pubs and restaurants are finally starting to re-open their doors, but the days of desperately trying to catch the eyes of the bar-tender while you wait at a crowded bar and chatting with waiting staff as you decide between the chicken and the fish are over.
Well, on pause anyway.
MM found out how Manchester is adapting to this strange new world of ordering via apps, al fresco dining, and one-way systems.
With social distancing and coronavirus regulations in place it is a very different environment to the one we left when final orders were called all those weeks ago on that sad Friday in March.
Apps and QR codes allow customers to order and pay for food and drink from their tables, a service popular amongst many people who are happy not having to queue at the bar or wait for staff to take their order.
“I do like being able to order in my own time on my phone and not have to queue-up, so I’d be happy for it to always be like this I think,” said Claire from Manchester.
For less tech-savvy people or those who resent having to download an app for each place they go to, it is an annoying, extra obstacle between them and that pint.
“I know my parents struggled when they went for a meal and had to use an app, which made me a bit sad! They’re older and just not very good with their phones.” Claire added.
The Northern Quarter’s vegan diner, V Revolution, have opted to use a QR code, which you scan using the camera on your phone to access an ordering website, rather than making customers download an app:
“I think people are reluctant to install stuff, so this streamlines it and hopefully means more people will use it,” owner Dom Moss, told MM.
Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time advisor announced on Twitter last week that they are were about to launch a completely free Greater Manchester App for the hospitality industry, which could reduce the number of apps customers need to download.
Of course, not everywhere is applying the rules as strictly as perhaps they should and where apps or online ordering may not be feasible or desired some pubs are using a queuing system at the bar.
Laura from Oldham visited a local pub with her sister and ended up leaving because they didn’t feel comfortable:
“It was just chaotic; their one-way system was confusing with arrows pointing every and there was a big queue for the bar which didn’t seem right. People weren’t social distancing at all, I felt like it shouldn’t have felt so normal I guess,” she told MM.
Because of social distancing rules, the number of people allowed into a pub or restaurant at any time is much lower than in pre-Covid times.
This means businesses are running at massively-reduced capacity and more organisation needs to go into housing customers safely, with many places using a pre-booking system.
A big problem many restaurants are facing is ‘no-shows’; people reserving a table and then not turning up. This is having a huge impact on restaurants who can’t afford to have empty tables.
Self-proclaimed ‘hospitality crusader’, Abi Dunn, and Antonia Lallement, Brand Sales Manager at Gusto Italian restaurants, saw the damage this was causing to the industry,
“I saw Antonia and others tweet about no-shows on the first weekend of re-opening and was heartbroken for the team and owners involved,” Dunn told MM.
They decided to do something about it, starting the #NoMoreNoShows campaign to bring attention to the issue and encourage people to cancel reservations they will not be keeping.
“We wanted customers to understand that hospitality is battered and bruised right now – it needs your support – not your ‘no-shows’.” said Dunn.
The campaign has been far-fetching and vigorous; using social media, 455 billboards across Greater Manchester and London, and celebrity endorsements, including celebrity chef, Tom Kerridge.
Just agree please, no fighting, no “yeah but, no but’s”, no more “dog ate my homework” excuses….. just call us… pic.twitter.com/fdHPaD4aes
— Tom Kerridge (@ChefTomKerridge) July 16, 2020
Kerridge – who is the executive chef at the Bull and Bear restaurant and Manchester’s Stock Exchange Hotel – has been vocal in his anger towards no-show, taking to Instagram earlier this month to lambast the 27 customers who failed to honour their booking at his restaurant in the Corinthia Hotel, London.
To the 27 people that booked @kerridgesbandg and then failed to turn up on a Saturday night….. This industry, like many others is on the verge of collapse. Your behaviour is disgraceful, shortsighted and down right unhelpful….. all of you “no shows” in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced…. YOU are putting peoples jobs more at risk….. we put staff levels to the number of covers booked and when you fail to turn up, it now costs us, which in turn will force very uncomfortable and hard decisions about staffing levels. You are the worst kind of guest, and that is “selfish”. I hope you have good look at yourselves…
Although it’s too soon to know the impact of the campaign, Dunn and Lallement hope it will remind people that not showing-up to a reservation can have a much deeper impact than they might realise:
“It’s not only the financial impact but the emotional impact on owners and teams we must consider,” said Dunn.
To help with the fact venues are running at much lower capacity, some roads within the Northern Quarter have been closed to cars, meaning bars and restaurants can put seating outside and serve more customers.
Edge Street, home to V Revolution, falls into one of these pedestrianised areas and the vegan diner are noticing the benefits.
“The outdoor seating has been great; it effectively doubles our capacity – which still sees us at less than our usual covers, but hey, it’s something. The only issue is the weather!” said Moss.
Ah yes, the infamous Manchester weather, not made for al-fresco dining perhaps, but when the rain holds off outdoor dining will give businesses, and customers, a much-needed boost.
After all, why were umbrellas and raincoats invented if not for sitting outside a Manchester establishment enjoying an ice-cold, socially-distanced, pint with up-to five of your best mates?