After it was announced that restaurants could reopen in early July, we all expected the public to flock for a meal out, the kind of chaos we saw over toilet rolls and bags of flour in the early days of lockdown.

However, this has not been the case. Although people are excited to finally enjoy a night out, there is still fear of catching the virus. Although restaurants are following extreme measures to offer a clean yet enjoyable experience in their venues, it has been reported that things have not been as easy as expected.

With many restaurants only allowing online bookings, finding that many bookings are not being honoured, with no notification as to when customers cannot attend. Michelin-star Chef Tom Kerridge, has taken to Instagram to criticise customers who fail to show up to their reservations. This comes after 27 people failed to show up on a Saturday night at his restaurant.

He wrote on his Instagram post: “To the 27 people that booked and failed to turn up on Saturday night… This industry, like many others, is on the verge of collapse. Your behaviour is disgraceful, short-sighted and down right unhelpful. All of you ‘no-shows’ in all restaurants up and down the country are adding to the issues already being faced. You are putting people’s jobs at risk.”

This is an issue for restaurants across the country, including our vibrant Lytham St Annes. Luckily locals are choosing to support restaurants, however if you do dine out during the week you will notice how quiet it is as opposed to pre-lockdown measures.

A restaurant in Lytham we have noticed has not opened its doors to the public is Gusto. Although the chain have opened a selection of their 18 restaurants across the north, the midlands, and Scotland, Lytham is not on the list to reopen within July.

Gusto have introduced strict measures including a one-way system, disposable menus, and a electronic tipping service as well as disallowing all walk-ins and telephone bookings – ensuring that all customer details are recorded digitally in case of an outbreak.

We are unsure as to when (if at all) Gusto are planning to open the Lytham branch, however we heard that many locals and visitors are keen for the restaurant to reopen. Gusto, although it is a chain, has become one of Lytham’s top restaurants, with elegant Italian dining and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Matt Snell, the managing director of the Gusto company has said that during the first 4 days of reopening more than 800 diners did not honour their booking, and failed to show up. This has cost the chain £20,000 in sales, as they are not allowing walk-ins who may occupy the empty reserved tables. He commented:

“The first day it was a real issue and we really didn’t expect it actually. We had lots of guests booked for our first day or reopening on Monday and we had 95 tables that were no-shows where people hadn’t bothered to contact us. To have that in one evening is particularly painful.

“At a time when the industry is reeling from being closed and operating at huge losses, to have that level of sales lost is particularly difficult to stomach.

“I think that people have got really excited and booked two or three restaurants on the same night and then decided last minute on the restaurant of choice.
“On Wednesday we started to phone everyone who had booked. We had 400 tables booked so that was 400 people to phone.
“That does solve the problem but for a restaurant group to have one person sat on the phone making hundreds of calls isn’t really sustainable and we shouldn’t really have to do that. We can’t carry on with is this level of no-shows,”
Although we can assume that people have not done this to intentionally hurt the business, it has definitely had an impact on their profits and may affect their reopening of other sites such as Lytham. We have had no word on whether Gusto Lytham will reopen, it was reported that staff were moving stock to a different site on Monday 13th.
This goes to show that these businesses do rely heavily on the public, and although it is great that people are being cautious, restaurants, like any other business, are struggling post-lockdown and do need the public’s help to get back on track.