When the lockdown was eased, Burnsall hit the headlines – several times. The weather was beautiful, the people had cabin fever and the countryside was opened up to them. “Travel as far as you like” said Boris – so they did. The only problem was, nothing was open. No car parks, no toilets, no cafes, pubs or shops… and it was chaos.
I watched through the camera I’d had fitted to my Riverbank building (originally installed so I could watch the river levels remotely). Burnsall looked like Blackpool times ten and social distancing looked like ancient history.
And the rubbish – yikes, it was unbelievable!
I know I could have reopened Riverbank and made up for weeks of lost business, but I just didn’t feel comfortable about it. So, I didn’t do it.
As we approach the date earmarked for a reopening of hospitality, and speculation about a relaxation in the 2m rule is rife, I’m looking forward to welcoming customers back.
Reopening plans: Initially, it won’t be the same. Riverbank will probably reopen as a takeaway, with tables spaced appropriately outside. I’m planning to have screens fitted to the serving hatches and to keep things moving as quickly as possible, I’ve been testing out some new bakes and salads that will be much quicker to serve, along with the usual cakes and coffees.
The Model: We never offered table service at Riverbank and our simple indoor/outdoor space was always more of a convenient shelter from the elements than a conventional café. In Covid world the model won’t change much. Whenever we can leave the kitchen to sanitise surfaces, we will, and in between we plan to leave wipes out that people are welcome to use. We will remind customers to remain socially distant but we won’t be policing or enforcing anything.
Eco disposables: Much as it goes against the grain, we’ll be serving everything in disposables for the time being to keep everyone safe (all compostable of course).
Stuff I’ve leaned: One advantage of being a follower when it comes to reopening, is that I’ve had an opportunity to be a customer of other businesses and see what works well and what doesn’t. For example, I’ve found it frustrating to stand in a queue (no matter how short) and not have much of an idea what’s on offer at the end of it. Then when you finally have your moment, there’s so much pressure to make a quick decision!
The Offer: I plan to post the day’s cakes, bakes and salads on riverbankburnsall.com/food and keep it updated throughout the day. Whether you’re standing in a queue or sitting at home, you can see what we’ve got, what’s sold out and what’s being added throughout the day.
Pre-ordering Food: If anyone wants things set aside, I’ll be only too happy to oblige. A DM (instagram/facebook), text (07711 530 156) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your food order, your date for collection and ETA is all I need. I’ll always reply to confirm your message has got through. I’ll bag up your food order, write your name on the bag and have it ready for when you get to the hatch.
Opening hours: Since the beginning we’ve opened Thursday to Sunday 9-3, year-round and only closed up for holidays (or floods!). I plan to return to this but honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen in this new world, so the best I can do is set out the plan and keep everything up to date online. Riverbankburnsall.com, instagram, facebook and tripadvisor will all be updated if anything changes.
Wood fired pizza: The wood fired oven and the Riverbank setting could work so well in these strange times. There’s plenty of space to spread out on the Riverbank terrace and on Burnsall green, and the car park is so convenient to wait for takeaways. I hope to go back to the regular slot for pizza – 6-8pm on the last Friday of the month from July, and as ever, I’ll keep updating online.
Only too happy to answer questions: I love it when people get in touch. If you have any questions, I’d be delighted to help.
Someone else we pick this up for me…