Restaurants ‘will fail unless they focus on safety’, boss warns as venues reopen

The hospitality sector in England has started to reopen this weekend as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased – but one restaurant chain boss has warned that outlets “will fail” unless they focus on keeping guests safe above all else.

Thousands of venues across the country have reopened for the first time in months.

Venues will be hoping that people start getting back in the habit of going out after months at home. The reopening could also provide an important economic hit at a time when thousands of jobs are being cut across the country, including at restaurant chains such as the Casual Dining Group.

Richard Hodgson, boss at Yo! Sushi, told the PA news agency that restaurant which make people feel safe “will succeed and those that don’t will fail”.

His company is opening five sites on Saturday, July 4 with a new restaurant format designed to meet new safety guidelines.

Meals will be sent direct to customers on the restaurant belts, with a traffic light system letting people know when their food is on its way.

The first restaurants to open are in Ashford, Cheshire Oaks, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle, with others to follow.

Customers will also be encouraged to use their phones to order and to contact staff.

Mr Hodgson said: “We’d already been looking at this technology, and I think this really highlights how those who move with the technology are best-placed to prosper.

“It will help with the safety aspect, but is largely stuff which customers are used to in other parts of their life.”

Mr Hodgson said Yo! restaurants still hd to provide “a fun experience” to customers to encourage them to go out for dinner instead of staying at home.

He said: “People have forgotten what it’s like to go out.

“So we now have to give people a reason to change their behaviour, so we really have to ensure we are creating a great experience.”

Wagamama boss Emma Woods agreed, saying: “We have to be authentic. It’s a huge moment for us and we have to make sure that our customers therefore have the fantastic experience they expect, whatever the circumstances.”

Stephen K Judge, Hard Rock International’s president of cafe operation, said: “As we continue to navigate this new way of life, we are committed to providing a safe and healthy dining environment for our guests and team members.”