The coronavirus diaries: Andrei Lussmann

I decided to open the estate gradually to enable us, as a team, to understand the market now; how people were feeling about dining out and how operationally we have been able to adapt to new measures.

We opened St Albans and Harpenden on 4 July and have since followed with Hitchin and more restaurants opening in September.  We’ve worked hard to adhere to the guidelines provided and to show our loyal customers that we care for their well-being and appreciate their support.

A number of precautions in line with government guidelines have been put in place: staffing bubbles in order to limit any transmission of the virus, daily health checks and PPE for staff such as the need to use visors . We ask people pre-book and we have arranged the seating plan so customers are seating 1m + away from each other.  We’ve had 99% positive feedback with most people appreciating the lengths we have extended to protect our team and customers. The problem is the inconsistences within the guidelines and some doing the bare minimum, which drives people to say we are doing too much.

We have found that after almost four months not working staff were a little off-kilter and lethargic  so we have adapted to this. We have devised a Classics Menu, so our customers can enjoy the Lussmanns dishes they know and love but it also means that the kitchen team are less stressed with a huge array of dishes to prepare; the menu changes every two weeks and there is 65% less prep.  Opening hours have slightly reduced too and the team are now on a six shift-rota, we are closed Sunday evenings and Monday lunchtimes.

From a supplier point of view, we have changed payment to weekly rather than the normal 30-day as it’s important to support all levels of hospitality in these times.

We’ve lost 30% covers over our estate but things are improving and we are down 80% against sales of last year, so I’m positive considering the circumstances.  However, with such tight margins we have had to look at other avenues for income like a lot of restauranteurs. Lussmanns have continued with the popular ready-meal service developed during lock-down, set up a weekend Burger and Hot Dog Pop-Up at The Abbey outside the St Albans restaurant has proved a real hit and we are also developing a catering service for picnics, BBQs and dinner parties in the Hertfordshire area.

It’s important for us to continue to re-enforce our brand in whatever capacity we can through our core values.  As a business, we need to try as hard as we possibly can to survive this difficult time and thrive when this is all over. Lussmanns are making constant tweaks daily to make sure customers want to come and dine and staff want to come to work.

By Andrei Lussmann, from Lussmann’s Sustainable Dining

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