Speaking on BigHospitality’s latest UnitedWeStand podcast, Gray says that after initially reviewing the group’s UK estate, and liaising with it various franchisees, 22 sites were able to remain open for delivery and takeaway as the lockdown came into force. That number has since grown to 52, with more reopenings planned for the coming days and weeks.
“We’re quite fortunate in a way that we don’t have a kitchen area to worry about,” he says. “Our restaurants are designed with long front-of-house counter areas that have designated preparation stations, which allow for social distancing to be maintained by staff.”
Communication has been key to Creams’ approach, with Gray holding regular online meetings with managers and franchisees still operating, to make sure their teams were comfortable with continuing to work; and were aware of and following the correct safety procedures.
“We sent out guidance for takeaway, on what stores should and shouldn’t do. We made sure there were markings being placed on the floor to guide social distancing; and one-way systems put in place where possible. And we are also ensuring teams have access to all the sanitiser and PPE they require.”
Going forward, Gray says what’s important is that all teams know what’s required of them, and that they receive enough support.
“We’re not charging franchise fees; we’re helping with rent renegotiations; and we’re working to make sure we can help open as many sites as we can safely. For us this is our peak time; our Christmas period, when we should be making the bulk of our income. If we didn’t do something now, the sites wouldn’t be around in December.”
Preparations are already underway to reopen Creams restaurants properly under social distancing rules, as and when its safe to do so. And there’s also plans in place to expand the brand in the coming months.
“We currently have two sites in London going through a tender process, with site visits being done remotely using smart phones to record the progress and allow the builders to look over it. Opening a new parlour towards the end of the year is no good. If we can, we want to open them at the right time so we don’t lose a year of our longterm strategy.”
UnitedWeStand has been created by William Reed hospitality titles BigHospitality, Restaurant magazine and Morning Advertiser and is supported by Britvic, CocaCola European Partners and Unilever Food Solutions.
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