Its June and all the talk and focus is on the reopening of the hospitality sector. On the 15th June shops were allowed to re-open. It was a much-trumpeted day and the media seemed to think that the day would mark an almost instantaneous return to life before Covid, a return to ‘normal’ but the reality was a bit of a none event. The shops opened and we stayed where we were, in front of the TV or in the garden. Had we already started to alter our behaviour, were we really experiencing the ‘new normal’? Who knows? Perhaps it was as simple as we didn’t feel the need for a new outfit to walk the next series of Game of Thrones or Fleabag? It doesn’t matter because it didn’t stop the world staring at its navel and examining every last nuance of consumer behaviour and the success and failure of every shop that opened.
This became the pattern for the next few weeks and days. There were announcements about announcements, rumour and half promises of announcements and then nothing. The hospitality industry was given the green light finally on the 23rd June, just 11 days before the opening day of the 4th July. As an industry we obviously took a collective slight, ‘how could we possibly be expect, to be ready to reopen with such short notice?’ and yet somehow, we managed it. After all it wasn’t as though the government had said we would never reopen, we always knew the day would come.
I think many did spend the intervening days waiting to be told what to do when the reality was that know one knew or even knows what to do. Everyone is in the same boat, learning as we go, adapting our systems and thinking to meet the next twist and turn in the sage of this pandemic. Do you think the government is being deliberately vague? Perhaps but more likely they have just as much or as little idea about what to do as the rest of us.
As reopening day came closer, I was asked all sorts of questions. I was asked more than once ‘how should we clean the toilets?’ My response was the same each time, ‘how did you clean them before?’ after all personal hygiene was always important. We didn’t let our customers use dirty toilets pre Covid so why would we change that now? Personal hygiene is fundamental to a huge proportion of our industry, yet somehow we seem to be terrified into inaction. We are an industry that you might think had a great base from which to start. Chefs should always have clean hands, rooms should always be clean, toilets should be hygienic but we appeared to suffer this collective amnesia. It was perhaps a missed opportunity to show just how professional our industry is and how high our standards are. Instead a lot of the industry, particularly some of the smaller businesses decided they needed to be told what to do. They were ably helped in their concern by lots of organisations explaining in the now obligatory webinar what they should do and what they should not do or how to clean this or that. You know that probably doesn’t help our industry when we ask to be seen as a great career for young professionals.
As it turned out the 4th July came and went with barely a murmur, despite the warnings from all and sundry not to go mad and the anticipated inebriation of a nation. We failed to live up to our much hyped drunken stereo type and we stayed calm and carried on. It was just another day in our journey to returning to something that resembles a normal life.