How a Michelin star restaurant copes with coronavirus | FT

After months in lockdown, restaurants are back. But they’re coming out of hibernation into a strange new world shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. In the first in a new series of films, food writer Tim Hayward and the FT’s Daniel Garrahan visit Lyle’s in east London to see how a Michelin star restaurant has pivoted from fine dining to pizza.

After months in lockdown restaurants are back but they’re coming out of hibernation and into a strange new world shaped by the corona virus pandemic i’m tim hayward i’m a restaurateur cook and food writer i’m daniel guerin ham and the journalists at the financial times and i love eating out we want to see how the restaurant business is adapting as we came

Out of lockdown and what eating out will look like in the future our first stop is miles the michelin star restaurant in london the shortage how could a fine-dining restaurant like this survive tim good to see you and you mate the uk is unlocking restaurants are starting to reopen it’s a exciting time it’s a challenging time for restaurants too isn’t oh you’re not

Kidding and no more so than here it’s the cutting edge of the restaurant phenomenon in the uk what we’ve seen over the last couple of decades and yet it’s right here on the street that marks the edge of the city and hipster central i’m looking over there and it’s empty there’s nothing moving in the city i don’t know what’s happening in it it’s the central figures

Nobody’s been in there in three months these challenges ahead for all different types of restaurant businesses but then there’s the dining experience as well i’m desperate to get out there and eats haven’t been out to eat in a restaurant first several months like most of the people in the country and yet at the same time feeling a bit cautious what does this new

Experience gonna look like are we going to be safe is it going to be an enjoyable experience well i’m going to be really interested to see what you think as a hunter because when they make those guidelines sit it’s going to be the difference between whether you’re desperate to go where you’re gonna go once and you’re gonna go sorry i don’t even like you together

Anymore yeah a romantic candlelit dinner for two served by a waiter or waitress wearing protective clothing and a visor is that going to be an enjoyable or romantic experience who knows and here’s your wine and i’ll give you a bed bar it’s sort of a hospital dining experience if these guys can’t crack it nobody can should we go in there and see what they’re up to

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Lyle’s was co-founded by general manager john and head chef james they also run floor a bakery and coffee shop across the city in borough market couple of weeks was brutal and at that point not having any sort of support in place and just not really knowing anything you’re the first michelin guys i’ve had the opportunity to ask what do you think is gonna happen

To me now after this well the guy that got around a reassess everybody as we come out of it it’s the kind of panicking that they won’t be able to sell their next their next guy because it’s essentially the same this one from the previous year because nobody will want to say anything negative about with its michelin star at the place of the annual world’s 50 best

Restaurants rankings laurels attracts international food tourists in normal times for now it remains closed you haven’t be opens for the big reopening weekends but i mean is that the decision you’re gonna take anytime soon you think that there is a little bit of well let’s see what happens because i certainly think that people will give an outdoor seating more

Of a shot than they will do being inside a restaurant i remember when we opened in every single person the restaurant industry came in and just said oh you get way more way more seats in here we’ve put our cap on how many people we thought we could do reasonably that was 48 so used to be 48 seats so how many covers would you have and thinking about 32 so it’s a

Reduction but it’s not too drastic you know you don’t want to make that sound too positive because 10-15 percent less turnover ten fifty percent less covers is an enormous difference that could be the difference between where they were just breaking even for a long time and actually generating a profit is it gonna be worth reopening for you do you think i’m not

Entirely convinced or i just don’t know yet how i feel about people are gonna react to going out to a restaurant the concern about eating in or eating out and i think it’s hugely divisive at the moment you get half the people going you know you i can’t believe you’re open that is inhumane what are you doing you’re killing everyone to the other half go you’ve got to

Get out there and support these people i’m hearing a lot from operators finance people largely who are running restaurant groups and chains and hubs of vertical drinking place so they want people to go back and i don’t hear a lot from chefs who are all about their creative expression and their brand that had outfits hearing a deadly silence from waiters waitresses

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With sommeliers and well how are they feeling right now this must be really scary for them yeah petrifies the pressure and responsibility i felt most is people looking at me and james frances i me and james going i don’t know kitchens looking a little bit different at the moment we clipped all of our production from restaurant food to our pastries viennois zuri

Which is what we do at a other restaurant floor down in borough market it’s it’s useful time to give people a bit of training something different to justify paying to get them some money and you won’t ever tempted to keep the kitchen open to do delivery or diy pets in the way that some other restaurants are one of the things that really makes the food here stand

Out is balance and timing things are taken through your product and served in a very short space of time and that does not work what do you think it’s gonna look like in this restaurant when you are serving again indoors a bit odd that tables are further apart it’s gonna feel a little sterile yes potentially i mean but people john we’ve been criticised that for a

Long time anyway so i don’t really mind exactly the same here we are as it always was 100% support anyone this opened yeah to not open when you’ve been told you can open with the current financial situation is a hard decision to make to plan long-term is at the moment is pointless exercise you just have to react to what is happening to try and keep things going so

I was going to ask for a nice clean prediction and it actually is kind of heartening but there isn’t one for this this place it’s going to be good you’re going to do the right thing but you’re not going to be rushed into committing to something very specific the only thing i will sit here and say about anything that james and i will do is it will be good what any of

Those things are let’s see it turns out that shortage has been a ghost town ever since the uk went into lockdown so john and james pivoted to pizza converting floor into an open hatch delivery and takeaway it’s kept them afloat and it means they don’t have to rush to reopen liars it seems that logical extension to brand i really want to know what these guys will do

With the pizza we’re using the same suppliers the same grain the same mills pistes 36-hour sourdough fermented pizza dough so on a sunday in our first week but we didn’t really know what we’re doing by seven o’clock we had sold out so this is floor and it doesn’t look like it’s opening up again as a restaurant space anytime soon no i think with the restrictions at

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The moment there’s not really the opportunities here it’s not really viable i think downstairs in my bar you can’t have anyone and even in a meter you have 12 people with floor closed for indoor dining floors landlord borough market agreed to provide some outside dining space for the new pizza operation a tenant or landlord can bury the head at the moment or you

Can have a discussion about how you can make things work businesses going under is not gonna pay the rent in three months or six months time the people who aren’t prepared to explore and look at other avenues of revenue and layering a business other businesses that potentially again a struggle has always been that question like he gets all the soot guilty guilty

Pleasure of what you’re eating and i’ve always said i don’t really know i didn’t don’t think i have one then they find out a lot of pieces i’ve got your guilty pleasures also eats up is amazing cheese and a cured pork and chili product no it’s not what do you think the whole set up at the diner i would come here and buy this this is why i’ve been yearning to do

This doesn’t frighten me and it feels quite safe and i think what they’ve done is by clinically they’ve used the resources they have but you also see what it’s like on the other side how they’re having a shift to keep their their brands protected that people protected their suppliers paid their bills papers land google’s involved in the process god knows what i

Left you like for a small operator so i’m really glad we got to see how tough even for the big boys i do you know the proper name places it is hard as hell to the ego as well think you think so it’s one about a michelin star chef who’s used to cooking the most refined food being forced by pavan 19-2 having to make it i think i’m saying cuz they really rather enjoy

It we don’t admit him i think they love something in our food basic well it certainly shows doesn’t so you wouldn’t besides good as it looks it smells nice much better

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How a Michelin star restaurant copes with coronavirus | FT By Financial Times