Restaurant Associates - “We’ve been talking to colleagues in Asia about how they are managing”

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant Associates managing director Alice Woodwark on social distancing

Related tags contract catering UnitedWeStand Compass Group Coronavirus

Restaurant Associates managing director Alice Woodwark says she has been getting advice from the group’s colleagues in Asia on how the UK operations can reopen with social distancing measures in place.

Restaurant Associates, which is part of Compass Group UK, oversees workplace catering facilities in businesses across the UK and also runs fine dining restaurants in the capital, including City Social and Bryn Williams at Somerset House.

Speaking on BigHospitality​’s UnitedWeStand podcast, Woodwark says the company has been looking to its Asian businesses for advice on how to begin to reopen its UK operations.

“We are starting to think very intently about how we come back from this and replicate our experiences in a way that’s going to work with social distancing or the remains of social distancing, as I image it will very slowly fade over time,” she says.

“What’s been really helpful is we’ve been talking to a lot of our colleagues in Asia about how they have managed it. They are about eight weeks ahead and have been hugely helpful both in terms of giving encouragement but also the practical tips and advice.”

Among the advice given includes ensuring places have clear floor marketing – “not aggressive or alarming but make it clear about where people should stand,” says Woodwark. She adds the company has been looking at learnings from the retail sector and says that clear screens are more welcoming than someone standing opposite people in a mask.

“We are looking at how we can use screens to keep eye contact and friendliness but also keep people safe and secure.”

“What are you going to do with you queue? It’s all very well putting markers on the floor, they might go back quite a long way, so if think about that before the customer gets there it makes it easier for them to do the right thing.”

She says that in Shanghai places are using tent cards on tables to explain to people how the new behaviours are going to work so that people can look after their own safety.

“That has been a huge lesson. Can you help them open a door without touching a handle or help them chose a salad without having to move things out of the way?”

“Our industry is about thinking about our customers’ needs before they do themselves and this is just a completely different version of doing that same thing.”

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.

To download this podcast via iTunes, click here.

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