Restaurants that do not focus on keeping guests safe in the face of coronavirus “will fail”, warned the boss of Yo! Sushi as outlets swing open their doors to customers again
Richard Hodgson, chief of the restaurant group, told PA that those which make people feel safe “will succeed and those that don’t will fail” as dining chains look to attract diners back into their venues.
Thousands of restaurants across the UK will reopen to the public on Saturday after the Government eases lockdown restrictions for large parts of the hospitality sector.
Sushi chain Yo! is one of a host of major chains to reopen a handful of its restaurants on the first day possible, with plans for a phased reopening of the rest of its sites.
It said it will reopen five of its sites – in Ashford, Cheshire Oaks, Guildford, Leeds and Newcastle – on July 4 with a new restaurant format after new safety guidelines thwarted the way it usually uses conveyor belts to send food around its sites.
Meals at its restaurants will be sent directly to customers on the belts with a traffic light system telling them when food is on its way before turning green once it arrives.
Customers will also be invited to use their phones to make orders to reduce contact with staff and help with social distancing.
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.”
However, he added that it was still vital that Yo provides customers with “a fun experience” to convince them to go out for dinner rather than stay at home.
“People have forgotten what it’s like to go out,” he added.
“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 also told PA that the company will ensure “the customer experience is not compromised” when it reopens its first site in central London on Saturday.
She said: “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.”
The noodles and katsu curry chain will open its first 18 sites this month with new sliding barriers on its benches to help meet health and safety guidance, with hopes to open its other restaurants in August and September.
Hard Rock International’s president of cafe operation, Stephen K Judge, said the health and safety of guests and team members are its “highest priority” as it prepares to open its two London sites.
He 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.”