On July 5th we went to a favourite place of ours – Whitstable – for a day out. The biggest relaxation of lockdown rules had happened the day before on so-called ‘Super Saturday.’
Pre-relaxation of lockdown rules
We’re big fans of eating out, so our last pre-lockdown meal out on March 15th felt like a very long time ago. In early lockdown we didn’t go anywhere other than having a daily walk. With the relaxation of some rules, we began going a little further afield and became accustomed to taking picnics to quiet spots.
Restaurants and relaxation of lockdown rules – our experience
We didn’t take any food with us as we knew at the least we’d be able to get takeaway from somewhere. We didn’t want to head to a potentially very busy pub, but we were open to assessing the ‘eating in’ situation at restaurants once we got there.
On arrival in Whitstable we headed to The Lobster Shack – a great place we’ve eaten at many times before. It was only 11.30am but we wanted time to do some reconnaissance before anyone got too hungry.
We were met outside by one of the staff; it was open for dining in and they had availability. The waitress explained about the app ordering process, she also explained about the one way system for entering and exiting the restaurant. It all sounded good, but still slightly cautious we opted for a table outside.
It was very breezy outside and as it was early still we decided to venture inside. Whilst the outside had started to get quite busy, we were the first indoor customers, which was great.
The first thing I noticed was at least half of the tables had been removed and there were more than two metres between each. There was nothing on the table except a laminated page with instructions on how to order. There was also a very big area for service with a wide gap from the bar/pass to the nearest table.
Once at our table, we downloaded the aforementioned app. You order your food and pay via your phone. It was a very straightforward process and payment was instant. Everything was done without any interaction with the staff.
Staff were calm and collected. Most were wearing full PPE. Our drinks were brought out without fanfare and it all felt very well organised. My mind was truly set at ease. Shortly after, our food arrived with similar efficiency and modesty. The cutlery came in a box alongside sachets of condiments and napkins.
The usual indoor toilets were closed and it was outdoor toilets only. You could wash your hands as usual in the cubicle and there was a sanitisation station outside as well (as you had no choice but to touch the lock to turn it, this was a sensible addition).
It might have been a relaxation of lockdown rules, but what we experienced was a very tight ship with lots of well-thought out and well-executed procedures. It felt completely safe and though it was a rather different experience to the past, I was surprised at how quickly we eased into it and really enjoyed ourselves. The restaurant was empty inside when we arrived but at full capacity as we finished our meal. Even at ‘full’ it was calm, distanced and safe. The food was topnotch too. Well done The Lobster Shack!
Tips for eating out now
- If it doesn’t feel right, don’t stay
- If it’s a place you have to book get on the website weeks in advance. With limited covers due to social distancing, places are getting booked very quickly
- If it’s a place you don’t have to book, get there early – it’s just more pleasant and you’ll avoid disappointment
- Have sanitiser on you just in case
- Keep an open mind – it won’t be the dining out experience you’re used to but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy