With new regulations now in force limiting the number of people who can gather at home and in venues, local restaurant owners explain what this means for their businesses.
For restaurants, bars and cafes across Courier Country, further restrictions on the way they operate after months of closure and upheaval could hardly be welcome.
The new “Rule of Six” came into force on Monday, limiting social gatherings to six people from up to two households whether in our homes or socialising elsewhere. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the restrictions were necessary to try to stem the rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
England’s interpretation of the same rule allows for a maximum of six people but they can be from six different households. But in Scotland, under 12s are not counted under the rule, while they are south of the border.
“Us restaurants and bars can only do so much” – Stefano Pieraccini, owner of The Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews
Owner of The Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews, Stefano “Stef” Pieraccini, says that much of the implementation of the new rules lies with the customers themselves, and that there has to be an “element of trust” in place.
Stef says: “I think the rule is a bit disappointing when in comparison to England. It’s slightly worrying from that aspect – once again Scotland has to be a wee bit different.
“In terms of drastic changes to the restaurant, we already have everything in place as all the tables are already socially distanced and our staff are wearing masks, so everything we had already done on that side is still fine under the Rule of Six.
“Where the slight problem I think might come is the two household issue. It’s our responsibility as the restaurant and as employers to make sure all our staff and customers feel safe and making a maximum table size of six is no problem.
I think the rule is a bit disappointing when in comparison to England. It’s slightly worrying from that aspect – once again Scotland has to be a wee bit different.
“The responsibility of people eating out in groups of two households lies ultimately with the customer but there has to be an element of trust. But you can only do so much. If we see a table of six individuals and ask if they are two households and they say yes then we have to trust that. I can’t ask them to produce utility bills or driving licenses.
“For us as a restaurant we need to keep our heads down and keep the trade as best we can and we get a lot of twos and fours coming in just from two households anyway. Do I think the bookings will be hugely affected? No, but I’ve had about six emails today already from different golf groups saying things like, ‘we were a table of eight but now can we have four tables of two?’. Then you tell them that’s fine but the tables can’t be sat next to each other and they ask, ‘why not?’, and it’s because we already have other bookings.
“I think that will be the biggest hurdle that needs to be addressed properly. If we had done what England did – maximum of six people from six households – then it would be a lot clearer. It is very unclear in Scotland and the businesses I have in Edinburgh, which are more drink-led than food-led, will be seriously affected.
“Us as restaurants and bars can only do so much.”
‘You don’t want to be breaking the rules, but you still have to make your business work’ – Adam Newth, Tayberry Dundee
Chef proprietor of The Tayberry in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Adam says it’s the private dining element of his business that’s been hit the hardest from these new rules and he’s worried about the knock-on effect this will have for the traditionally busy Christmas period.
He explained: “We’ve got a private dining room, which is a big arm of the business for us, and it’s generally booked out three or four times a week. Normally we’d be able to sit tables of 14-16 up there, before Covid started.
“It had an impact during the first lockdown but we had started to adjust our table sizes recently, allowing people to have the private dining room but with smaller numbers, probably about eight or so.
“Now that it’s gone down to six, you can’t really have private dining for six people as it takes up too much of the cover space.
“It’s a difficult one because they say no more than a table of six but with our private dining room we’re not quite sure on where we stand and whether we could have two tables of six, so they can still share the experience.
“There were people worried about the idea of coming out for a meal, people who had been shielding for instance, and the private dining room offered them a bit of security because it would only be them in that room. We also ramped up our cleaning schedule so that every inch of the place is getting sanitised, as you can imagine. So they’re not sitting at a table in close proximity of complete strangers – that room is theirs.
You don’t want to be breaking the rules but you still have to make your business work. Most customers have been ok with it, especially the bigger bookings we’ve had to phone up. But it’s the knock-on effect for Christmas that I’m starting to worry about, if this is going to last to then.
Adam Newth, The Tayberry.
“Unfortunately now we’re having to charge a little bit extra for the room hire because we’re losing covers. But I think people were glad to get out and have that added bit of security.
“You don’t want to be breaking the rules but you still have to make your business work. Most customers have been ok with it, especially the bigger bookings we’ve had to phone up. But it’s the knock-on effect for Christmas that I’m starting to worry about, if this is going to last to then.
“The hospitality trade is absolutely reliant on these peak times of the year, particularly with Christmas parties and that’s what we’re most worried for. Now that furlough has stopped and the government help is starting to dry up, Christmas is going to be a crucial time for these businesses to get through January and February.
“The big parties are now becoming less and less and it’s just tables of two and four at the minute, which is still fine as the place is busy. But it’s looking a bit further down the road that is most concerning.
“It’s a scary time but what I find amazing is how everyone is just making their businesses adapt to make this work.”
“It’s just another thing on top of what is a very troubling, and very difficult time” – Sarah Heward, The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum
Sarah Heward, owner of The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, claims that though the new Rule of Six hasn’t had a direct impact on her business, it’s the accumulation and build-up of changes being regularly imposed that’s taking the biggest toll.
Sarah said: “We haven’t really had to make any drastic changes to accommodate the new rule, though I imagine it’s affected other businesses worse than us, because of the nature of what we do.
“Even when we get big groups coming in, we’ve got enough space to split them up. People are coming to us to eat and go, they’re not usually coming in to celebrate, though that does happen on occasion. So I think it will affect us but not in a dramatic way.
“We get groups of locals coming to have lunch together, such as ladies who lunch, and it will affect our regular groups like that. We also get groups of motorcyclists coming through the town, as well as hikers, and other locals who come socially. So the two households aspect of the rule will have the biggest impact, rather than the maximum of six people.
It’s just another thing on top of what is a very troubling and very difficult time. The degree of uncertainty and constant change is what’s getting us. Managing these things with small businesses is a real challenge and having to constantly change everything as the rules change.
“It’s just another thing on top of what is a very troubling and very difficult time. The degree of uncertainty and constant change is what’s getting us. Managing these things with small businesses is a real challenge and having to constantly change everything as the rules change.
“I want my general manager to be doing things like developing the menu and building it back up as we’re still on a reduced menu, but he’s spending a lot of time constantly re-doing risk assessments, staff contracts and keeping up with all the new legislation. That’s not to push the business forward, that’s just so we can stand still.
“That’s one of the most difficult things for us as we’ve got limited resources – we don’t have HR departments or legal departments, we’re having to do it ourselves.
“It’s the volume of constant change that’s causing a problem. I think, on the whole, Nicola Sturgeon has done a reasonable job in terms of making the rules clear, but I think the rate at which things are changing are just confusing.
“The public expect us to be experts in it but we’re only learning at the same time that they’re learning. We don’t get any advanced warning.”