Good morning lovely people
Sorry (well a little sorry) about last week’s blog. I didn’t have time to apply and refine my usual filter. It was a busy week. Doing what restaurants do, selling food and wine, you would think was easy, but the recent extended opening hours with permitted alcohol changes has taken a few days to adjust the gears.
If I was to tell you we’ve employed 45 new people over the last month it might help see the balancing act in getting everything aligned. It’s a daunting task. Risky also, as we are depending on normal returning, and no more restrictions. All new recruits are contractual appointments with committed hours and no entitlement to furlough.
The team has done brilliantly. I’m really proud of the youngest to the oldest, particularly given the adjustments we are all having to make both as members of the public and as hospitality staff. We’re almost back up to our core pre pandemic staffing (not income) level without the seasonal variations which we are now trying to anticipate. I feel we’re like a steam engine with multiple carriages and many moving parts. Fast track training is in motion, held tight by some of our oldest and dearest team, always trying to keep our values heading in the right direction. With less Festival activity and restricted international travel I don’t think the extra recruitment will be anywhere near our usual additional 40 plus staffing needs. All our “old” team are now off “the job retention scheme”. I’m no longer referring to it as furlough. I think some people have got confused around what it’s intention was so “job retention” feels more accurate. Moving forward, I pray we will not need to rely on this support again. (I think I said this once before.) We’re all hoping for steadier, more settled services ahead.
A team, and indeed any “A Team” is like an orchestra or for a better reference a military pipe band. Everyone can play on their own but dancing together in time with the music takes harmony and practice; a lot of practice. With so many starts and stops over the last year, we’ve all needed a refresher course. The train has left the station and hopefully, with no more unplanned stops, we’re back on track.
After I shared last week’s email and talked to some of our senior team, what is apparent is the sense of PTSD (present traumatic stress disorientation). It’s not post, it’s still very present. I know customers are coming to us for escapism but we are still trapped in this Covid stress and regulated bubble. It’s difficult knowing what to do. The regulations are still in place but much of the public wants them removed. We are taking a slightly lighter approach on some matters (What’s the saying, if you can’t beat them join them. We’re just too tired to continue to fight, as it has been a very draining fight, with some people who haven’t been paying any attention.)
Talking of trauma sounds a bit fragile, a bit precious. But we hadn’t noticed how we were behaving or feeling. When you are travelling so fast to hold on you can’t see what’s around or behind you. We’ve not been at war. We’ve not lost anyone. We’ve not had any near death experiences. For some, where life hasn’t really changed that much, they will find our challenges almost alien. We have all had freedoms restrained, emotions held back but some have had many more moments of uncertainty and a much strong sense of loss.
We are thick skinned, a strong sturdy lot in hospitality but I feel, and I am speaking on behalf of many others, we are traumatised by this journey. I know everyone has suffered in some way. But not everyone has woken in the middle of the night, every night for months thinking tomorrow will be the day that my worst nightmares will be released and a life’s work will be lost. The front facing, smiling welcome, masks for many, deep scars that will take a long time to heal. For those who have lost homes or faced business closure the scars may be too deep to repair. If the tracks of our marriage and family were not as secure we may have broken long ago.
Victor and I couldn’t be more different as you know. He’s the front of house Mr Culture that has been the “love” of our business. As we come out of this, I’ll be moving back off the floor (can you hear the team shouting “thank the lord!”) to my more planning and creative role. Victor will be more mentoring for the team which he does instinctively. Family businesses, those smaller than ours, where the cooking, accounts, HR, debt management, marketing, ordering, training and service fall to the couple or a few teams; these scars may be even more like open wounds.
Acknowledging pain is part of the battle to heal. Big corporations are just numbers for some but even with them at the last stop there are always people, somewhere. Thank you everyone for all your support, you really have no idea how much good you all do for us and others like us.
Contini George Street (aka Centotre) has always been a barometer of the health of the nation. Economic and emotional.
Moving through the financial crash of 2009, Independence and Brexit debates, we’ve always felt very privileged to observe the mood.
Some, not everyone, are talking about life returning to normal. The FTSE is sitting above the 7000 mark, another sign of moving back to normal for some. Behaviour is reflecting normal too. Holidays are being booked faster than the Bullet Train. Many who have had two vaccinations have commented that they are alright Jack! It’s an interesting observation. Some, not all, of a previously cautious section of our community are sounding as if they are tougher than ever. None of our team intend to leave the UK this summer, even those with family overseas are not making plans to holiday abroad. Others are just waiting for the traffic lights to go green for home rather than any financial inability or fear of travelling.
I’m trying to feel normal but I still feel numb, especially if the R number is back above 1. Less than 10% of our team have had one vaccination and only one has had two due to medical needs, not age. It’s great to see the 18 to 29 yo being encouraged to book their vaccinations. Victor’s got No. 1 son booked in. Maybe once our team has largely been vaccinated this will be a step closer to feeling less protective in our day to day environment and another move towards normal.
If we could stop wearing masks inside the restaurant this would be a massive step toward normal returning, even if social distancing was still in place. It would also stop us having to ask every one in 10 if they have a mask exemption! We’d feel more relaxed and less officious. Most importantly, our ability to smile with our eyes and our lips, makes me emotional at the thought. Life would become easier in a flash.
These blogs have been written in the hope of sharing the barometer for our hospitality sector. I’m seeing shaking hands and hugging becoming commonplace. I hadn’t anticipated this happening so quickly. Maybe Covid will be like childbirth. Some will forget how painful it was very quickly, for others once will be enough. I really hope we don’t end up with any more babies, on top of Rocco and Nonna someone would be jumping off a bridge. We wouldn’t need Poirot to find out who was missing. Maybe normal will come back far sooner than we imagined. Let’s all fast forward to that one.
Another barometer is coming back. For Friday’s only at Contini George Street we’re opening at 8am. Inspired by Mike Coulters’s Edinburgh Coffee morning, that got our breakfast community established all those lovely years ago. Pre Iphones or Facebook and all the others, in the days of Blackberries and diaries, when new technology was like breaking a new world record or discovering a new planet, when there always seemed to be something to get excited about. I’m on the next train to that destination. Jump on board!
Keep safe, keep well, keep smiling and thank you all
BOOK A TABLE AT OUR VENUES
By popular demand we so excited to be opening at 8am onFridays onlyatContini George Street. Start the weekend early and book ahead for your business breakfast meeting or catching up with friends in true style.
Our Contini Friends promotion for 241 on Afternoon Tea atThe Scottish Cafe & Restauranthas been super popular. It is running until the end of June so if you want to take part you can sign up to our Loyalty Cardhere
Cannonball Housebookings have been steady and it is so lovely to see familiar names booking and supporting us.
We hosted our first wedding since lockdown on Saturday and it was the best feeling seeing the building come back to life. Thank you!
CONTINI AT HOME
It’s the final week of our current menus so place your order today so you don’t miss your favourites!
Order for Edinburgh delivery Thursday to Saturday and rest of Scotland and UK for Friday delivery using the links below.