The pandemic has hit every business hard. In particular, restaurants across the country have struggled hugely to stay afloat with many being forced into adapting their business model entirely.
Lockdowns and COVID-19 public health restrictions have disrupted businesses for the past year, with most restaurants forced to close for a large part of the past year.
To combat these challenges, many Irish restaurants have adapted by using click-and-collect services and takeaway sales.
In comparison to a normal year, restaurant sales are still down significantly. However, many Irish restaurants have held on to a degree of optimism and are grateful that they were able to survive so far.
The Leaping Salmon is a gastro pub located in the heart of Blackrock village in Co Cork. The business is renowned for its pizzas and the lively atmosphere in the pub.
Owner Ernest Horgan says he was forced into operating a click-and-collect service when the second lockdown hit last October.
Once the second wave of restrictions was implemented by the Government, The Leaping Salmon started up a phone-in service for collecting food. Horgan says one of the biggest challenges at the beginning was catering for the pub’s main customer base, a demographic that largely struggles with technology.
After an initial trial, he says the business pretty much abandoned its click-and-collect website service in place of customers simply phoning in orders.
Overall, The Leaping Salmon’s sales were still down 70% last year as a result of the loss of normal business from COVID-19.
Loss of revenue
Despite the significant loss of revenue, Horgan said the business was lucky in many ways as it was the only establishment in the area offering this form of service and it managed to wade through the darker months of the pandemic and stay open.
Looking ahead to the second half of 2021, Horgan says he does not want to see pubs and restaurants reopen until they can stay open fully as the stop-start system over the last year has been both mentally and financially draining.
In Dublin, Eastern dine-in restaurant chain Kinara has had to completely adapt its business model since the pandemic hit.
One of the most popular eastern cuisine restaurants in Dublin, the Kinara group operates three restaurants in the capital and has been in business for the past 30 years.
Although COVID-19 has brought a myriad of new challenges, owner Sean Collender took a pragmatic approach and wasted no time in changing Kinara’s business model to a click-and-collect takeaway service.
Collender says his restaurant business has seen plenty of bumps over the years but “absolutely nothing compares to what has happened this past year”.
He was forced to react swiftly and, once the first lockdown hit, he set up a click-and-collect system on the Kinara website.
Unfortunately, while the business continued to operate, Kinara was forced to cut its staff numbers from 93 to just 30 people within a 24-hour period as the business reduced its numbers to just 10 staff members at each of its three restaurants.
He recalls paying over €2,000 for face masks during the early weeks of the first lockdown which would cost less than €200 today.
Aside from staff, Collender says the business was hit with a lot of instant costs which dented the cashflow in the early weeks of the pandemic.
For instance, he recalls paying over €2,000 for face masks during the early weeks of the first lockdown which would cost less than €200 today.
While business levels were still down significantly on a normal year, Collender says Kinara’s takeaway service did relatively well given the circumstances.
After an initial surge in demand, he says the novelty aspect of getting restaurant standard food for takeaway wore off with consumers after the first few months and sales began to drop.
Kinara continues to operate a click-and-collect service from Thursday to Sunday, with Friday and Saturday their busiest nights.
Despite the enormous challenges of the last year, Collender is hopeful for the future and looks forward to reopening his restaurants for full dine-in service later this year.