Robyn Christie, Industry advisor and consultant to Agility Hospitality, says the hospitality industry’s immense efforts to make dining out as safe as possible has been very reassuring.
I must admit to feeling butterflies in my stomach while getting ready for my first night out in months. Who can forget the thrill of being out after dark with a curfew hanging over your head? Dining out at a restaurant after 140-odd days under national lockdown recently came with a surprising additional bonus: I felt like a teenager again.
Immediately as we settled down at our table, I felt the tension leave my body – it almost felt as though the sanitiser in my handbag was not the only alcohol I’d touched that evening. To my surprise, I found the new Covid 19 precautions in our familiar restaurant didn’t create the atmosphere I’d half been expecting, most likely because they have now become so ubiquitous in our daily lives.
Greeting our waiter like a long lost relative after months of lockdown, we settled down to enjoy ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised to find I didn’t for a second feel like Damocles, as I’d imagined, with the sword of Covid-19 anxiety hanging ominously, pendulously over my head. Instead, it was fantastic and cathartic, and it felt like we were – at long last – living something approaching normal life again.
As we scampered home before 10pm, so our cars wouldn’t turn into pumpkins. I drove past formerly vibrant nightspots littered with dark, shuttered restaurants like broken teeth and haunted by memories of the fantastic times I’ve had at some of those establishments.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be in a position to enjoy a meal out, or a weekend break, carpe diem and support the restaurants you hold dear now or they will not be there for much longer. The feel-good value of a change of scenery and letting my hair down is difficult to convey in words, but for me, it was as invigorating as a skinny dip in a cool mountain stream.
For our economy, keeping these drivers of sustainable local employment going is simply imperative to our collective future. This is not just about nostalgia and going out for jollies, it is about fuelling an industry that supports the wellbeing of so many staff members and breadwinners of families.
The hospitality business owners we work with have gone above and beyond to ensure that the health and wellness of their staff at all levels were provided for, recognising the business value of protecting human capital at all times, and not only during the present global pandemic.
The easing of restrictions doesn’t mean we don’t need to take every possible precaution, but we should also give ourselves credit, for the most part, for adapting to such radical necessary behavioural changes so quickly and helping to reduce the spread of the virus.
The reality of living in the era of Covid-19 is fast shrugging off its novelty, and we might as well make the best of it. With the country entering level two of Lockdown, my advice is to get out there again and eat delicious food, drink fantastic local wine in beautiful surroundings, and celebrate life at every opportunity.