How to get behind independent Bristol restaurants post-lockdownPosted on: 31 Jul 2020
Restaurants across the city need your support in the face of an uncertain future.
Restaurants in Bristol and across the UK finally got the go-ahead to reopen this month, able to welcome customers back and start to pick up the pieces after almost four months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.
During lockdown, independents were forced to innovate and adapt their business models in order to survive. Some set up takeaway and delivery services, some moved their stores online for the first time and some set up socially-distanced pop-ups to cover losses.
But while the major chain restaurants have the customer base and financial backing to make it through the next few months, the post-lockdown recovery period presents an array of new challenges for independent restaurant owners.
Currently, in line with social distancing guidelines, many businesses have no choice but to open at limited capacity to ensure safety of customers and staff. This could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for restaurants that haven't seen steady revenue since March.
A number of renowned Bristol establishments, including the Michelin-starred Wilks and Birch in Southville, have already closed their doors for good as a result of the crisis.
Message from the Team ???? pic.twitter.com/XXVtZdjHD4— Birch Bristol (@birch_bristol) July 22, 2020
So how can you do your bit to ensure the survival of your favourite local restaurants? With businesses now opening up again, it's vital that communities across Bristol do what they can to get behind them by filling tables, complying to new safety measures and sharing positive feedback.
From utilising a new government support scheme to rethinking your tipping habits and actually showing up to your bookings, here we run through the best ways to support independent restaurants in increasingly uncertain times.
Make use of the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme
In response to the coronavirus crisis, the government have established 'Eat Out to Help Out', a scheme that offers customers 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating restaurants, up to the value of £10 per person.
Running every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from Wednesday 3 - Monday 31 August, 'Eat Out to Help Out' has been set up specifically to bring people back into restaurants and help the hospitality sector recover from the economic impact of lockdown.
You can enjoy 50% off everything from coffee and cake to pizza, pie, pitta and much more in Bristol, with some of the city's top independents registered on the scheme.
To find out whether or not your favourite restaurants are getting involved, enter your postcode on the 'Eat Out to Help Out' restaurant finder page here. The site will show you exactly which restaurants and businesses are taking part within five miles of your address.
We are pleased to announce that we are participating in the Governments ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme in August!— The Burger Joint (@burgerjointHQ) July 27, 2020
This means you can enjoy 50% off your bill (up to the value of £10 per person & not including alcoholic drinks) if you dine in at the restaurant between Mon-Wed pic.twitter.com/sNlw2ekDxG
Turn up to your bookings...
This seems like an obvious one, but if you book a table at a restaurant in the coming weeks, make sure you turn up. Restaurants across Bristol and the rest of the UK have been hit by a wave of no-shows since reopening, and these affect small restaurants more than you might think.
TV chefs Tom Ainsworth and Tom Kerridge, as well as an array of business owners nationwide, have gone public with their no-show figures in recent weeks, in a bid to raise awareness of the impact it can have on a struggling restaurant.
Last weekend, Flipside Cocktail Club on Whiteladies Road reported that as many as 50% of their Saturday night bookings failed to turn up. Snobby's, currently working at 55% capacity at their restaurant on Chandos Road in BS6, are experiencing similar issues.
It should go without saying, but at a time when restaurants are doing all they can to stay open during one of the most difficult economic periods of the 21st century, don't book a table and leave them hanging.
If, for any reason, you're no longer able to make a booking, simply contact the restaurant and let them know in advance.
We are taking deposits of £40/table from next week. It’s a sad day for us as we weren’t keen on the idea. Unfortunately we have been forced to due to this ongoing issue that has been heightened since covid-19! Thank you for your support and understanding.https://t.co/N9Z1F5nXKy— Snobby's (@Snobbysbristol) July 15, 2020
...and don't be put off if you're asked for a deposit
In response to an onslaught of no-shows, several independents have been forced to establish deposit schemes with their bookings, requiring customers to put down a small, refundable fee to reduce the risk of people not turning up.
Obviously, given the choice, restaurants would choose not to require deposits, because doing so can discourage people from booking. Be aware that in a lot of cases, with so many people declining to turn up with no prior warning, owners have had no viable alternative.
If you're looking to book a table at one of your favourite restaurants, don't be put off if they ask for a deposit. You'll get it back, and it means that in the long run, independents get that much-needed extra sense of security ahead of service.
Consider adding a tip to your bill, or bring some cash with you
Remember cash? It's been a long time since we've had any actual money in our pockets, with notes and coins largely replaced by pin codes and contactless card payments in a collective bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Cash was slowly on the way out before the crisis hit, but for safety reasons an increasing number of restaurants, pubs and businesses are opting to go cashless to reduce risk from the exchange of physical money.
But what does this mean for restaurant staff? Independents across Bristol have reported a drastic drop in customer tips since reopening, a result of the public being less inclined to carry cash and being unaware or unwilling to ask about alternative methods to pay a service charge.
If you've enjoyed your food, or been given great service, be sure to ask your server about the best ways to offer a tip. Some won't accept cash, but there's no reason why you can't add an extra fiver to your bill when you're paying on card.
Follow new safety rules
As mentioned above, compulsory social distancing measures have been introduced across all restaurants and businesses, minimising risk of transmission of the virus between staff and customers.
As well as ensuring social distancing guidelines are met, restaurants have incorporated a range of other safety procedures, including the use of face masks for staff, regular deep cleaning and compliance with track and trace programmes upon entry.
Obviously it's not normal, and for some people it might even be a bit frustrating, but be aware that restaurants are prioritising safety as a precaution, to ensure the safety of everyone who visits.
Businesses have spent weeks adapting their restaurants and training staff to ensure they can operate as safely as possible, so the least you could do is not kick off when you're asked to take two seconds to scan a track and trace barcode.
Show some love on social media
If you've had a great meal out, or experienced some top-notch service, or both, why not tell everyone? A photo on Instagram or post on Twitter or Facebook is a great way to raise awareness of a newly-reopened restaurant when, for the most part, they need all the publicity they can get.
A quick post on social media reporting on a great visit to a local restaurant can lead to a few more bookings from friends, family and anonymous followers, so there's never been a better time to spread the word and do a bit of cheerleading for your favourite independents.
Order takeaways direct from restaurants where possible
Restaurants may well have reopened across Bristol, but sometimes nothing beats a good takeaway. Ordering is never been easier thanks to the emergence of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat, but doing your research before ordering could make a big difference for an independent restaurant.
As well as charging as much as 35% commission per order, delivery companies often keep full delivery fees, leaving restaurants to take a sizeable hit to their revenue.
You might wonder why restaurants sign up to delivery companies given the financial implications, but after the coronavirus outbreak forced owners to close their doors to customers, takeaways became the sole source of income for a lot of independents.
Next time you're looking to order, take a minute to have a look online and find out if your favourite restaurant is taking orders directly, and sidestep the delivery apps.
You'll still get the same delicious dishes, but you can enjoy them that little bit more knowing that 100% of the fee is going straight to a Bristol business.
???? Shop Bristol Food ????— Bristol Food Union (@bristolfooduni) July 10, 2020
Bristol's restaurants, cafes and delis need your support now more than ever - and buying from local, independent is one way to help!
Browse a brilliant selection on our website now: https://t.co/D3BICII9xw pic.twitter.com/Aw3omnOwiI
Main Image: Suncraft
Eat Out to Help Out: Find out which Bristol restaurants are offering 50% off in August
Pay What You Can: New community cafe opens in Stokes Croft
Editor - 365Bristol.com & LOUD Magazine
Matt is a Journalism graduate and writer, passionate about supporting Bristol music, art and independent business. Get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.