Anna Haugh: "Nothing the Government says right now makes running a fine-dining restaurant feasible"

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Podcast chef Anna Haugh social distancing in restaurants Coronavirus Ready Steady Cook

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Chef Anna Haugh says owner-operated fine-dining restaurants such as her own will face further significant pressure if forced to implement a two-metre social distancing gap between tables.

Speaking on BigHospitality​'s latest UnitedWeStand podcast, Haugh - who owns Irish-focused, fine-dining restaurant Myrtle in London's Chelsea - says she has done everything in her power over the last few months to protect her staff and her business. But should she have to operate with a considerably reduced capacity, it may not be feasible to reopen at all. 

"The Government should protect the people; that's the main thing. I don't believe the main focus should be on the economy, or me and my business. But I expect them to be doing detailed research; to be looking at other countries; and analysing what would be the safest way for us to reopen." 

Haugh explains that when she does reopen Myrtle, which she hopes will be in July, it will not only have a different menu (which she's worked on while the restaurant has been closed), it will also relaunch with a new takeaway concept called Anna's Bistro.

"I've always wanted to do high-end takeaway," she says.

"It's something I've always been very curious about. [Anna's Bistro] will have the same kind of ethos as the restaurant in terms of the quality of the produce, and the attention to small details of flavour, but the idea is that it will be a step-up from the average takeaway you can get."

The acclaimed Irish chef - who also featured recently on the BBC reboot of its beloved teatime cooking show Ready, Steady, Cook - ​adds that having Anna's Bistro will be a necessity to help ensure the survival of Myrtle post lockdown. 

"Because we don't know how many people we will be allowed to serve at one time, if we don't have a second business as well, it's likely that we wouldn't be able to survive. There's nothing that the Government is telling us at the moment that is making running a high-end, fine-dining restaurant feasible. Our tables were already a metre apart, if we have to move them further, the number of covers drops dramatically.

"But then if they say we can only run on a 30% capacity, and how could we open on that given how expensive it already is to run a fine-dining restaurant in London."

In terms of life in lockdown, Haugh says she's kept herself busy learning new skills making and editing cooking videos. 

"When I'm getting on and doing things I feel happier and more content. Obviously I also have bad days, where I feel worried and stressed, but the way I am it suits me to just push forward. 

"I try not to be too negative, and in general I think I've handled it the best I can."

#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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