Restaurant praises 'brilliant' customers, but warns of 'too many no shows'

Shoppers out in force wearing masks in Norwich city centre on the first day it became mandatory for

The next easing of lockdown happens on May 17. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

On Monday, businesses across Norfolk and Waveney will adapt to the next loosening of coronavirus restrictions.

For those which opened in April, including shops, the difference may be minimal. But for others, it will be the first time they have been able to trade normally in months.

Over the last six weeks we've been speaking to traders to see how they've been getting on. Today, we've revisited them ahead of May 17.

Eric Snaith, owner of Eric's Fish and Chips which has just opened on Fish Hill in Holt. Picture: Nei

Eric Snaith of Eric's. - Credit: Archant

'It's like trying to plan five restaurant openings at once'

Eric Snaith is owner of Titchwell Manor hotel and restaurant, as well as Eric’s Fish and Chips in Holt and Thornham and Eric's Pizza in Thornham.

He said: “It’s like trying to plan five restaurant openings at once - there’s a lot to get your head around. We’re excited, but apprehensive. It will be nice one week from now, once we get back into the flow of it. The big challenge is that so many of our staff won’t have worked for four or five months. 

“We only take bookings at the hotel and we’re nearly full there. But for the others it’s still difficult to anticipate how busy we will be and what staff levels we will need.

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“We haven’t made many changes inside, but at Thornham fish and chips we’re going to be doing table service this year, because of the new layout of the kitchen, rather than having people come up to the counter to order.

“The vast majority of customers will be understanding - after all it’s a similar situation for them, going into a restaurant again is going to take a bit of getting used to for everybody.

“More than anything we’re just excited to be taking a step back to what we do best and what we’re proud of.”

The outdoor seating area added to Woolf and Social restaurant during the pandemic.

The outdoor seating area added to Woolf and Social restaurant during the pandemic. - Credit: Francis Woolf

'Customers are brilliant... But too many no shows'

Francis Woolf, at Woolf and Social in Norwich, said he had "absolutely no complaints" about how the venue's return had played out - adding that people had really taken to the al fresco dining approach.

He said: "Our customers have been brilliant and have stuck steadfast to all of the restrictions, which has been lovely.

"We are fully booked up for the next two weeks and interestingly, people seem to be more keen to sit outdoors than in."

The Nelson Street restaurant re-opens indoors to customers on Tuesday, a day after the restrictions allow and has earned plaudits for its outdoor seating arrangements.

Mr Woolf added: "We put a lot of time and effort into our garden and are really reaping the rewards of that.

"The only real drawback is we have had far too many no shows, which may perhaps be because people are getting scared off by the weather."

Jane James is the owner an independent book shop, called Not Just Books, in Thetford's Town Centre.

Jane James is the owner an independent book shop, called Not Just Books, in Thetford's Town Centre. - Credit: Emily Thomson

'People are thinking staycations'

Jane James, owner of Not Just Books, an independent book store in Thetford, said: “I think people are still getting used to the idea of being able to do a bit more. The nice thing is, we have got it nicely laid out so people can look around and not feel encroached upon or overwhelmed. 

“We have had a lot of comments saying how nice and calm it is it's really lovely to get that feedback from customers.  

“Business has been nicely steady. It did peak initially, and it petered off for a little while but it has come back to being nicely consistent. 

“As we are heading into summer, foraging books for kids has been going really well. People are thinking staycations and a lot of our walking books are doing well with different routes. People are taking the opportunity to rediscover what's on their doorstep and local history is doing well too.  

“It has been lovely it’s just so nice to be able to hand sell books to people. Everything is feeling normal, if I dare use that word.” 

Ray Smith with animals at Camel Park Oasis, near Halesworth. PHOTO: Camel Park Oasis

Ray Smith with animals at Camel Park Oasis, near Halesworth. PHOTO: Camel Park Oasis - Credit: Archant

'We didn't expect the demand'

Ray Smith, owner of Camel Park Oasis near Halesworth, said: “Since reopening on April 12 we have been very busy particularly at weekends.

“I think what we didn’t expect was the demand for the safari experience days we host which are in high demand during this May half term and for the summer holidays.

“A lot of people are wary of going abroad this year still and it seems many wish to stay and do stuff in the UK.

“Just about everything at our park has been open since April 12 because we operate mainly outdoors, including our donkey and camel rides which have been very popular.

“The one thing we will be able to start again on Monday is the talks session we hold which is where we sit a camel down in the marquee and discuss interesting facts about them.

“We are not sure when our indoor play areas will reopen and cafe service will remain takeaway only.”

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