The circle of life of the kitchen garden usually mirrors hospitality. Dormant over the winter but triumphant when it comes back to life in the summer. Abundance followed by hunger on repeat. Regardless of the season both the garden and our restaurants need a huge amount of TLC to keep them healthy and strong enough to flourish year after year. This cycle felt recoverable but talk of a new variant (why the week delay in putting India on the red list?) has left my emotions this week stunted, and colleagues in Glasgow devastated.
2019’s abundant summer was a long time ago. 2020 was only a bud, never fully in bloom. Green shoots can be deceptive, they can cover many hidden problems. A few tables on a terrace don’t change the balance sheet. Hospitality, cities and rural economies are going to need perfect conditions to be able to gather a bumper harvest and survive another season.
May has been a washout, great for the garden, not for the beer garden. Tomorrow is a new dawn (but very sadly not for Glasgow or Moray). Alcohol is permitted indoors in hospitality, three couples can meet and 50 people can have an event, with the caveat of all being socially distanced to 1m, so that’s just short of a football pitch! For our business in particular this feels like a moment to celebrate but have my emotions bolted? It felt as good as winning bronze at the Chelsea Flower Show, but it’s gold, a glut and a half that we need to be able to fully repair all the way through to the roots of the supply chain.
To repair we need to be able to trade and we need our team. Our team has been truly amazing. Victor and I are so proud of them. Adjusting to the “normal” world of work while still being asked to hold all the Covid compliance isn’t an easy task. Some of us tough old birds find it easier to adjust but the effects of furlough and Brexit have created a tangible shift in mentality and resource availability. Now that the younger team are receiving their vaccinations we’re also seeing the side effects of this. Taking precautions to ensure the individual, the team and you the customers are safe is essential. We are recruiting to align with openings (and frustratingly fill holes from resignations of team we supported through furlough) so please share. Our recruitment focus continues to evolve to meet the team’s expectations as it has shifted even since December. As a wise man told me, the grass isn’t always greener but you only know this once you’ve jumped the fence. There is also an industry campaign around “Be Kind to Hospitality”. It’s a sad day when people need to be reminded. Happily it’s a message we have never had to share with you all. Thank you most sincerely, our team values your kindness.
There was an interesting plot twist in this week’s FM’s announcement. For colleagues in the west it’s more of a noose than a twist. A few weeks ago hospitality was being built up as the safer place to meet friends and loved ones. The ground rules have however shifted again and hospitality has been pushed back from the raised beds into the glasshouse. I wasn’t going to throw any punches but it is frightening that we are seeing inconsistencies in our communities ability to come out of the level restrictions. I may put caution to the wind and give you an elbow bump the next time you’re in the restaurant, but hugs are clearly off the menu.
From tomorrow (but very sadly not in Glasgow or Moray) at home, we’re allowed to party with no social distancing, you can sing till your heart’s content (as nobody can stop you otherwise), no masks will be worn by the cook or the housekeeping team, no curfew, you can hug and even have a sleepover with no Test & Protect QR code waiting for you in front of the telly or BBQ. Our sector, yet again is being punished with unnecessary bureaucracy and let’s face it “anti-social” behaviour enforcement. We really are tired of having to police the public on Covid, it’s not hospitable. If rules are removed at home surely they should be removed in compliant environments like our restaurants? Like the alcohol ban that has been in place since October 2020, why can’t we get back to an even playing field? This is like a see-saw rulebook leaving us all worn out.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance released survey results last week showing hotel occupancy rates. The numbers show there is no boom heading to the highlands or any city. Occupancy rates are sitting well below 50% for the summer, much lower than last year’s numbers. Restaurants feed off of visitors staying in hotels especially if everyone is still told to work from home. Visitors are drawn by the entertainment sector. Theatres and visitor attractions are being forced to stay at the unsustainable 2m social distancing. Confidence needs to be restored and creating an even playing field in the entertainment world too surely is the start? Where is the attraction to staycation in Scotland when south of the border and indeed overseas, green pastures surround? Or are the PM’s summer promises soon to be dug up and binned too?
We’re still hopeful the Edinburgh Summer Festivals will have some activities in the city and not all be forced into another virtual world. This will be a cultural famine that will never recover. I honestly want to stop writing the same story. If our business was in Glasgow I fear I’d be tempted to write the epitaph.
After a very long year, we’re shouting from Castlehill, Cannonball is reopening. Events bookings are being taken now. You can book Restaurant dinner reservations and drinks and canapes reservations in the Bar from 1st July. It’s a good feeling. The Scottish Cafe is open six days next week (Tuesday to Sunday).
With restrictions lifting (?), we’ve taken the bold step, to make two new appointments, replacing the team that we very sadly had to let go last year. Louise Hamilton, who worked with us when we opened Cannonball in 2014 and left to have her baby, is coming back to work full time as an Event Manager. She’ll be joined by Yvonne in the same role supporting Jennie with Sales and Marketing. Everyone wants to get back to celebrating, we’re here to help you do just that.
The last year has felt like a hunger gap. If you’re a gardener you’ll understand the significance of this phrase. For hospitality it’s not been a gap but a famine. The future has to start looking brighter for socialising. We really are determined and eager that we are able to open all our venues and grow the team again. There are so many skills, energy and generally wonderful people that we have and need around us. It’s a privilege to have them work with us to look after you. We’re working harder than ever at growing the business back again; stronger, healthier and better than before, never forgetting what we’ve learned over these rough times. Our city and our wider community can’t afford another lost summer, we need to be triumphant this year. It won’t be blooming easy but we have to make it fruitful. Glasgow we love you, stay strong!
Keep well and keep safe and keep smiling.
Thank you all most sincerely
BOOK A TABLE AT OUR VENUES
Join us at Contini George Street for breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner
Monday to Saturday 10am to 10.30pm
Sunday 10am to 6pm
Join us at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant for breakfast, coffee and cake, lunch and afternoon tea
Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Join us at Cannonball House for dinner from 1st July
Cannonball Restaurant – Thursday to Saturday 5.30pm to 11pm
Cannonball Bar – Thursday to Saturday1pm to 11pm
PRIVATE HIRE OF CANNONBALL HOUSE
With the rules for events relaxing over the summer we are thrilled to be able to offer Cannonball House for private hire.
Here are some dates to guide your planning:
17th May to 5th June Maximum 50 guests with 6 guests per table from 3 households
6th June to 30th June Maximum 100 guests with 8 guests per table from 3 households
1st July onwards Maximum 200 guests with 10 guests from 4 households
So let us create the magic whether you prefer Scottish or Italian, Traditional or modern and no matter what the size of your party our team will be on hand to look after you every step of the way. Contact our team for a bespoke proposal.
CONTINI AT HOME
Order for Edinburgh delivery Thursday to Saturday and rest of Scotland and UK for Friday delivery using the links below.