How have the past months impacted team spirit at your restaurant?
That has grown much stronger, of course. When the guests eventually came back, everyone wanted to do things right. No one ever cut corners on the hygiene plan. The guests who told us they love coming in because they feel safe here put even more wind in our sails. In August, we had a staff meeting and looked back over everything that had happened – and I think we succeeded in making all our employees like they’re in good hands with us, even though these days, they are actually in very unstable jobs.
In terms of reservations and orders, your restaurant is fairly well advanced digitally. How is that helping you in this situation?
We had the online ordering system on our website set up as soon as the lockdown went into effect in the autumn, and people have accepted it incredibly well. That’s because it’s so fast and easy to place an order with us – no waiting in a long queue on the phone. We had been using our online reservation tool long before Covid-19, and when we were permitted to open back up again, we used it for guest data collection – we just added the second household, and we had everything in one place.
… and then you also have the online shop, which was born during the first lockdown. How did that come about?
Our freezer was full and we were not about to throw everything away – so we canned it all, just like Granny used to do, and sold it. But our guests never knew what we had on hand at any given time, and when they phoned to ask, the server always had to run out to the storehouse to check. Then we set up the online shop and entered all the food there.
Canning food like Granny – you’re living and breathing sustainability even during the crisis. Is that harder or easier?
That’s not a question that applies here – it’s simply what we do. In any case, it’s a huge boon to our image and the guests’ confidence right now. But carrying it through without making any compromises can sometimes be difficult. We can no longer repackage things like ketchup and mustard, for example, so we have to use single-portion packets – and that creates plastic waste. But all our disposable containers are made of sugarcane, so they’re fully biodegradable. We even decided against heat lamps and will get by with reduced indoor seating during the winter – which isn’t so long here. Of course, we still buy and cook regional and seasonal products, and don’t use many convenience items. After all, I still have the same team in the kitchen – they need something to do, too (laughs).
What are you expecting your Christmas business to be like?
What Christmas business? There won’t be any parties in the hospitality industry. All our bookings have been cancelled – even the local tradespeople, who were brave at first, are now bailing out. A doctor’s surgery that want to show their appreciation and support have booked a mulled-wine reception outside by the fire pit – but you can hardly call that a Christmas party. We hope our à la carte business, which otherwise tends to be slow pre-Christmas because everyone is at parties, will pick up a bit this year. But for that to happen, we must be allowed to open our doors again.
If you could make a wish for government and society to fulfil, what would that be?
I would wish for a more differentiated approach, rather than hitting a whole industry sector with the same big hammer. And I wish the Working Hours Act could be relaxed, so I could give my employees a whole day off on occasion and, in exchange, have them work from 10 am to 9 pm on other days. Right now, our kitchen and pickup service are open all day so our guests feel safe and know they will get something to eat even without queueing up at the most popular times.
… and what would you wish for from your guests?
They don’t need to change a thing, they are amazing! No idea where all the anti-maskers are supposed to be – they’re definitely not here!