Gordon Ramsay: these are new openings, not reopenings
The chef describes how the restaurant world will be turned on its head
Without wishing to overwork the already well-worn phrase, 'new normal', it's fair to say that when the world unlocks itself, there will be a new standard for almost everything in the food industry. In a recent podcast appearance, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay made some telling predictions about the fate of restaurants.
Speaking on the Frank Warren Heavyweight podcast, he said, “We have to imagine these as new openings.
“Forget the salt and pepper, it’s hand sanitiser. Forget the long-winded descriptions, forget table sides. Temperature checks — all these things are going to come into play.”
Ramsay disclosed that he is currently chairing three meetings every week to discuss new measures for his global restaurant portfolio. Once these businesses are able to reopen, Ramsay and co are considering spaced tables, personal protective equipment, and other ways to protect the general wellbeing of staff and customers.
The changes that would have to take place are so stark that the chef and restaurateur thinks it would entirely change the face of restaurants. No more sharing, no more sprinkling salt with your grubby fingers, no more sugar bowls, no friendly faced waiter – just a mask and pair of gloves.
One thing he said was clear was that the company would “have to increase security of our customers and make sure they feel safe and feel incredibly well looked after.”
However, this is a tricky task when there are still so many question marks surrounding reopening. “All those measures being worked out but it’s a logistical minefield because we’re still uncertain with [the timing of] the vaccine,” he said.
The furlough scheme has been a life-saver for Ramsay, who called it “extraordinary” and “instrumental”. Undoubtedly it was an enormous relief, especially after the week of “limbo” when the government advised people to stay away from restaurants without mandating their closure. Ramsay says the “majority” of staff across his business portfolio had been furloughed.
Echoing the remarks of many high profile chefs and restaurateurs, including Yotam Ottolenghi, Ramsay said the main issue for restaurants is with rent payments. He thinks the industry needed a rent deferral extended from three months (it is currently in place until the end of June 2020), to at least six months, and possibly even to nine months.
The chef is under no illusion that this an extremely challenging time for restaurants. The restaurant industry is one of low profits and tight cashflow. As Ramsay puts it, there is simply "no margin for error".
He is candid and remarkably stoic about the future, saying, “There will be substantial losses next year, there’s no two ways about that." He predicts that by spring 2021, the restaurant business would be “back up on [their] feet”.
On top of his TV empire, Gordon Ramsay owns a remarkable 34 restaurants and bars. Of these, 16 are in London, including his renowned three-Michelin-starred original on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. He also owns two restaurants in France, 10 in America, two in Dubai, two in Qatar, one in China and one in Singapore.
Earlier during the lockdown, Ramsay received widespread criticism for fleeing the city and moving to his second home in Cornwall. From this second home he has been posting a number of recipe videos and livestreams on Youtube and other social media channels.