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Michelin-star restaurant puts safety on menu as it prepares to reopen

The Woodspeen has made a number of changes to ensure diners and staff are kept safe post-lockdown

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

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Michelin-star restaurant puts safety on the menu as it prepares to reopen

The Woodspeen is taking a number of steps to ensure diners are kept safe as it prepares to reopen for the first time in months. 

The Michelin-star restaurant has been closed since March 21, but will welcome people back from July 4 following the latest government announcement.

As well as making plans to utilise its outside terrace, The Woodspeen has also made small adjustments to the restaurant layout, and staff rotas to reduce the number of guests and staff in any area at one time.

In addition, all menus in the restaurant and bar will be viewable by a QR code positioned on each table or alternatively a disposable menu will be available.

Director of operations, Alessandro Fasoli, said: “It is great to be able to take reservations in July for both the restaurant and our cookery school again.

“We have been working hard with Public Health England to ensure we provide a safe-dine environment for both our staff and guests and we will continually update our policies and procedures as a result of this.

“We always believed that health and safety is an essential part of the business and I personally have a natural inclination for ensuring that both staff are guests are safe when in our businesses.

“There will be some changes of course but all guests should expect the same warm welcome, the same beautiful dining room and some wonderful new menus to explore.

“We are very lucky at The Woodspeen to have a sizeable dining room and a lovely outside terrace for an “Al Fresco” experience, so there will be ample distance between tables and diners.

“Small adjustments to the restaurant layout, service and staff rotas to reduce the number of guests and staff in any area are in place.

“For example, in our cookery school we have halved the number of guests per course and taken advantage of technology supported alternatives such as QR coded recipes, emailing recipes packs, new tutor interaction policies and course flow.

“We thought it would make sense this summer to offer an all-day dining concept and extend our opening hours so that our guests can book tables at quiet times throughout the day, seven days a week.

“A new summer menu is now available from 2.30pm until 6.30pm and we can already see that this option is very popular, especially as our outside terrace is a pretty special place to dine through the afternoon.

“Legally required documentation is of course in place for risk assessments and full operating policies across both the restaurant and the cookery school and we will follow PHE guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment by our staff.

“We now have in place enhanced procedures and training for our staff regarding hygiene and hand wash/sanitising stations will be provided at all entrances for guests and work areas for staff and this will be complemented by the proactive and regular cleaning regimes plan in place, also during service.

"All our menus in the restaurant and bar will be viewable by a QR code positioned on each table or alternatively a disposable menu will be available; there will be no menu covers until further notice.

"We have a no handshake policy between employees, suppliers and guests in place at The Woodspeen.

"To minimise waiter table visits we implementing a different table set up where all cutleries, dessert included will be available at the table on arrival."

Mr Fasoli added: "The Woodspeen closed its doors on March 21 and it was a very difficult day for everyone involved.

“We took the decision to not adventure in any delivery or takeaway initiatives because we strongly believed that our staff and also our guests should not be put at risk during this difficult and dangerous period for any financial gain.

“We probably have some of the best restaurant facilities in England to support the concept but our values came first so the business had to press pause in all their operations.

“Our team is our biggest asset, we made sure that all members were financially, physically and psychologically fine.

“We have a large team in place and considered that every person reacts differently to new scenarios so our priority and duty of care has been to look after the team in place, talk to each other and make sure we had each other’s back.

"We have been in touch with our customer base through social media, newsletters and emails.

"Our guests support over this period have been immense and highlighted the importance of offering consistently detailed and personal service in a restaurant complemented by innovative and tasty local food.

“We have just shy of a thousand covers booked in July already which we think supports the above.

“Like every business we have been looking closely at developments and updates and the thought of a re-opening date seemed very far away at times.

“Emotionally it is a very difficult time worldwide for many, many people and a number of employees needed emotional support and a figure to help. The other challenging part was to link all PHE guidelines to our order of service.

“When someone goes out to a nice restaurant, it’s not just a transaction, they are buying an experience that they can’t get at home.

“There will be a period of time when people will be understandably nervous, when that passes we think the human love of socialising and meeting people will continue.”

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