Adapting in unprecedented times

Owners husband and wife team Paul and Lisa Wedgwood

FINE dining and takeaway aren’t usually two offers that go hand-in-hand, but in these strangest of times, ‘unusual’ seems to have become the norm.

With premises across Scotland forced to close their doors to the public, businesses able to continue to offer a takeaway and/or home delivery service are making the best of a bad situation – even if it’s something they may never have considered normally.

In Edinburgh, one of the first high-profile businesses to adapt to the ‘new norm’ was fine dining eatery Wedgwood The Restaurant.

Operated by husband and wife team Paul and Lisa Wedgwood, the restaurant made headlines by introducing a takeaway service the week before the government-ordered closure.

Since then, the Wedgwoods have refined and improved their offer – and are now bringing staff members back from furlough in order to meet growing demand from their customers.

Speaking to SLTN Lisa said, four weeks in, the new service is “just getting busier and busier”.

“A takeaway’s a different mindset to a restaurant,” said Lisa.

“You’ve got to do things in bulk – rather than serving one table at a time. It’s been a learning curve but we’re definitely getting better and better each week.”

As fate would have it, Wedgwood had introduced a voucher facet to its website prior to Christmas, which meant the site was already set up to process payments.

So when the owners decided to introduce their takeaway service their web designer was able to adapt the restaurant’s website without too much trouble.

The service now operates Thursday to Sunday every week, with customers able to place orders online from Tuesday. They can either collect from the restaurant (social distancing measures are in place in the venue) or have their meal delivered for an extra charge depending on their distance from the restaurant.

Customers can order from a weekly-changing menu which offers a choice of four starters, four mains and three desserts at a price point of £20 (or separately at £5.50 per starter, £9.50 per main and £5 per dessert). As the restaurant has a (previously unused) off-sales function in its premises licence, customers can also choose a bottle of wine to accompany their meal.

Ensuring the takeaway food is up to the Wedgwoods’ exacting standards is no easy task, however.

Working seven days a week, Paul is in constant contact with suppliers to keep track of what is available, when, and at the right price.

Forward-planning is the name of the game.

He said: “The first couple of weekends we didn’t have a clue how busy the business was going to turn out to be and so we were really struggling to keep up with demand.

“We got a ham hock in which was frozen and there were problems with that, because we had to think about the defrost times and the cooking time. So it’s almost been a leap of faith from us that we’re going to stay this busy.

“I speak to the suppliers on Monday to see what they’ve got in stock, then order on Tuesday and Wednesday to get all the prep done. And then serving on Thursday.”

With over 200 meals sold each weekend, Paul said the uptake “has been phenomenal”.

So much so that the Wedgwoods are considering keeping some form of takeaway service in place even after the current shutdown has ended.

Paul acknowledged that, in the days and weeks after normal business resumes, every hospitality business is likely to be “fighting for survival”.

He said: “Will the general public be confident to go out to restaurants and sit two metres apart?

“Are we still going to have social distancing in the restaurant? Are we going to have to do half covers? There’s so much we still don’t know and it’s a really scary future at the moment.”

In the meantime the owners are conscious that, even working flat-out, they are in a more fortunate position than some of their contemporaries in the trade.

Lisa said: “We know that we’re in such a better position than many businesses, so we are thankful to everyone who’s supporting us with the takeaway business and helping us to stay alive.”