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How are restaurateurs approaching sustainable practices post lockdown

As part of the Government’s easing of lockdown, high street restaurants are planned to re-open no earlier than 4 July, subject to it being safe to do so.  As part of the RA Group’s 5 stage process to combatting Covid-19: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Re- Imagination and Reform; it is very important that we as a business, use our expertise and colleagues within the industry, to consider and establish what a sustainable future might look like.

David Simms, RA Group’s Culinary Director, hosted a second panel discussion with some of the most acclaimed chefs in the UK: Richard Corrigan from the Corrigan Collection, Jeff Galvin from Galvin Restaurants and Bryn Williams from Odettes and Somerset House.

Click her to see the full discussion:

Environment and Sustainability

The discussion on the environment and sustainability provided much food for thought from the panel:

Zero waste and modest ingredients will be key post-lockdown, say chefs. Menus will need to be developed to get everything they can from produce and make the most of modest ingredients with costs constantly monitored as restaurants reopen.

Bryn Williams, said: “We’ll have to use every single bit of ingredients. We’ll be cooking from the fridge. If you get a dose of Covid in your team and you have to shut up shop with food in your fridges, that’s loss again.”

Jeff Galvin saying: “I think there’ll be a lot more speaking to suppliers, more asking ‘what do you have?’ and trying to use it and maybe there can be some value in that.” Galvin went on to say that making more of modest and run-of-the mill ingredients, such as lentils, was something that top chefs “have in their armour” and would become key resources that restaurants wanting to stay in business would be championing.

“More so now than ever, it’s essential to be extremely agile within our business. Work smart, reduce wastage, and continuously adapt to the required changes by challenging the norm” – DaviD

The three chefs spoke of reopening with pared-down menus and wine lists – Corrigan said that the wine list at his London restaurant Bentley’s was potentially going to be reduced from 300 bottles to 40 or 50 – in order to minimise waste, an issue, said Williams that would be a “big factor in making money day-to-day”.

“There can’t be any waste in the restaurant in the next six months. You’ll have to be on top of every single minute detail,” Williams said, expressing concern about whether an operator’s attention would be “on the cooking or on not losing money”.

“This is a steep learning curve for all of us and we will need to be a strong and supportive to our teams. Work really closely with our suppliers so we can create efficient and inspiring menus” – David

Key issues raised in the discussion:

“Communication is key connecting both with our customers and our staff to encourage them to come back by ensuring we make them feel safe.” – David
Health and Wellbeing – looking after our teams 

It’s widely recognised that these challenging times have affected the mental health and wellbeing of many and this will continue as lockdown eases. Many staff losing their jobs when furlough ends, and those that remain in the industry will face challenges like nothing seen before.

Restaurants are not just about feeding yourselves – it’s about creating memories too.  Customers we’ve been talking to are just desperate to get back, they’re so supportive.      Jeff

What’s the most positive thing to come out of the current situation? 

Ultimately among the group, there was a desire to return to the “magic” that comes from putting a plate of food down in front of enthusiastic diners. Yet operating in “survival mode” was also anticipated. Corrigan said: “We have a real, real job on our hands to be responsible. We are the captains of our restaurants in these choppy waters and can we see it through. “Closing was one thing but opening will be an absolutely different ball game altogether. It’s not a reopening – it’s a new opening.”

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