"It has been so good to feel busy and hopeful again" - Scottish business owners on why they're reopening now

As the lockdown measures look set to be in place for a few more weeks, more and more businesses are adapting and changing to fit this 'new normal'.

Published 6th May 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

In the past few weeks more and more food and drink businesses have announced they are reopening for delivery or collection services, some of whom didn't offer these options before.

Here we take a look at why they've decided to reopen now, and how you can support them while still staying safe.

The Amsterdam, Glasgow

businesses reopening

Micheal Woods will reopen the Amsterdam bar for food delivery. Picture: Sonya Woods

Owner of the Amsterdam Bar in Glasgow's Merchant City, Michael Woods says: "Thankfully all the staff have been paid through the furlough scheme, however unfortunately we don’t qualify for any grant money to assist with the operational costs of the business, and with cash flow currently being non-existent we need to do something to ensure we can pay rent and bills.

"We’re going to be offering our ‘Dam classics – great smashed burgers, chicken, wings, pizzas and sandwiches through our partners UberEats, Deliveroo and Just Eat, as well as doing our own deliveries and collections from the bar through the giant open windows at the front, ensuring the safety of our staff and customers while abiding by the social distancing laws.

"We’re looking forward to getting our food and drinks out to everyone in lockdown and hopefully in to the hands of the key workers and frontline staff who are keeping us all safe."

Honeycomb & Co, Edinburgh

Ian D'Aunnunzio-Green, owner of Honeycomb & Co (who announced they were reopening last week) said: "We made the decision to re-open for a trial 10 day period - it made sense to do it now while the Job Retention Scheme is in place, as it gives us a chance to try this new model and look at what could be successful and sustainable in the longer term.

"It's clear that it's going to be some time before we can return to what was business as usual, so this is the time to look at what our customers want and what we can achieve within the social distancing rules.

"It's important to continue using our suppliers, mostly local, independent businesses who are facing the same challenges we are. We want to have a viable business at the end of this, but it's really hard to develop a new plan when we still don't know what the rules will be, or how long we'll be working like this.

"The support from customers has been amazing and has encouraged us that this new model could work. We're looking at innovation in every part of the business, from the dishes we cook and the way we serve through to using e-commerce to introduce online ordering.

"It's just five days since we re-opened but everything has gone well so far - customers have been really understanding about the social distancing measures we've put in place and our team have risen to the challenge.

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"Our menu has changed but that's given us a chance to innovate and create some new dishes. We've also been able to help the local community by supplying some of the most sought-after items in lockdown - flour and yeast have been big sellers this week!

"After the trial period we'll take some time out to look at the numbers and to see if there is any further clarity from the government on likely next steps before we re-open fully.

"We know that for the foreseeable future, things are going to keep changing so we'll continue to do everything we can to operate safely and to keep going through this tough time for everyone."

The Buffalo Farm, Fife

businesses reopening

Picture: The Buffalo Farm

Fife’s Buffalo Farm has had to change its business model in order to survive, and has found that local support is ensuring the business thrives.

Owner, Steven Mitchell says: “We have had to change enormously as at lockdown we basically lost three out of our four revenue streams with our wholesale business to hotels and restaurants gone, our events catering team had all their events cancelled and we were forced to close our Bothy coffee shop and bistro.

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“Thankfully we are more than surviving, we are actually growing our online sales and local deliveries which is seeing us increase revenue.

“The website traffic is up 300 per cent year on year with about 50,000 visits in April. And we are now delivering to about 150-200 customers per day.

“No staff have been furloughed – even the ones from our cafe, The Bothy, which had to close. Chefs are prepping new, easy dinner products which we are selling – one proved so popular we sold 1000 packs in two weeks.

"Our delivery drivers are all now focused on local deliveries to customers. We introduced essential products - such as fruit and veg boxes, flour, milk and bread - all sourced from local suppliers.

“It has been hard work but it’s very rewarding knowing that we are helping the community. I couldn’t have done it without the commitment of the team.”

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Lychee Oriental, Glasgow

A mainstay of the Chinese restaurant scene in Glasgow, Lychee Oriental is reopened for takeaway after a period of reflection, says owner Jimmy Lee.

"I’ve had time to think over how to safety open up with the correct PPE, hand sanitisers etc., and I've also had time to think over takeaway strategy, Jimmy explains.

"Also if I don’t open soon the restaurant could go bust as I wasn’t eligible for the government grants.

"Because of this we decided to re-open the business last weekend and have launched a new takeaway collection menu.

"We have reduced our kitchen staff to the bare minimum and introduced the necessary PPE to comply with Government regulations and our kitchens have been transformed to accommodate a small team.

"Our new takeaway menu is packed with our customers favourite dishes including Hong Kong Sweet and Sour Chicken, Thai Chilli King Prawns, Crispy Shredded Chicken, Chicken and Beef Curry, Lemon Chicken and Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry - all for collection at reception of our restaurant on Mitchell Street."

Leftfield, Edinburgh

Rachel Chisholm, co-owner of Edinburgh’s Leftfield, has reopened the business in response to customer demand owing to the fact that people really miss bistros and restaurants.

She says: "We started up again doing click and collect, as with all the uncertainty around the hospitality industry and social distancing measures, we are very worried about not having a viable business to come back to post-lockdown (we are tiny with only eight tables and a max of 22 covers).

"Customer support has been amazing! We've always have a firm focus on being a neighbourhood bistro - we do lots of events and host groups, families, locals, date nights etc. We find extended families and groups of friends come into us in different formations, and for different occasions, and they have been so supportive in their words and actions since we closed.

"In processing the online orders and chatting to people, it's been lovely to know that people are picking up food for neighbours, friends and their families and they've been using our food as a way to connect and care for each other.

"People really miss bistros and restaurants. In our recent customer survey 75 per cent said they would come back to restaurants as soon as it was safe to do so and if they were assured all govt. regulations were being followed.

"20 per cent said they would go out to eat post-lockdown regardless of any concerns and only 5 per cent said they were too fearful to ever go back into public spaces.

"This has been really encouraging - especially if we can figure out how to reopen. In the meantime as long as people want us and we can operate safely, we will produce restaurant quality platters full of locally sourced goodies and sell organic, biodynamic wines for collection.

"I have to say, as business owners it's been so good to feel busy and hopeful again for the first time since that awful week before the official shutdown.

"We chose to go with a seafood menu as it's Phil's (White - co-owner) cooking passion and we thought people needed something to look forward to, to help make their weekends feel special again.

"We also felt worried about the seafood industry so many people in Scotland rely on for employment and we've long been advocates for more of us to eat the fabulous catch that we have access to in Scotland.

"We buy from two suppliers - one is super local and we always used to pop in to see him, and one is the actual creel fisherman over on the west coast who has not taken his boat out since lockdown.

"He used to come through and attend farmers markets as well as sell to us. Luckily they're still able to sell their amazing hot smoked salmon online to retail and private customers."

Contini George Street, Edinburgh

businesses reopening

Contini on George Street has recently opened for collection and delivery to Edinburgh residents. The decision to do this now it partly to do with local producers having surplus stock, which would normally have gone to restaurants and hotels and, for Contini's, the fact that the market in Italy is now reopened.

This means that Contini’s can provide a wider mix of authentic Italian and Scottish produce as part of their offering.

They’re bringing the flavours of Italy that we can’t source in Scotland, like Burrata, camone tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano to sit alongside favourite Scottish suppliers like Errington’s, Isle of Mull Cheese, Phantassie Farm, Campbell Prime Meats, and Crombie’s of Edinburgh.

Carina Contini, owner of Contini George Street, said: “The last few months have been the most challenging in all our lives and we’ve really considered how we can deliver our quality restaurant experience to our lovely customers in their homes.

 “We hope ‘Contini at Home’ will meet and exceed our customer dining and cooking needs.  We’re offering our authentic flavours at great value prices that we very much hope you will enjoy.  The team are excited and thrilled to be back cooking and I’ll be joining them in the kitchen, just like old times.”

Lebowskis West, Glasgow

For anyone in Glasgow missing pub food and the bar's famous White Russian cocktails, the news that Lebowskis was reopening for delivery in early May was good.

Graham Suttle, managing director explains this leap into the 'new normal'. "Times they are a changin' - the hospitality business has been forever impacted by COVID, for better or for worse.

"Prior to the lockdown it was becoming impossible to meet rising costs of produce, wages and the huge tax and administration costs imposed on our industry by government and local councils.

"Post Lockdown we as operators will have to find new ways to secure jobs and livelihoods for our teams and their families.

"That's why we launched Lebowskis Live - testing the home delivery market and as a precursor to what will be a very different landscape post lockdown.

"Its a huge unknown with capacity restrictions and massive debt accrued as to whether some people can open or even should.

"Our reassurances have been the huge support and daily requests for Lebowskis food and drinks by our amazing loyal customers.

"As with all businesses we are nothing without them, so Lebowskis Live gives us a chance at a new revenue stream and a way of giving our awesome customers something they really want."

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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