Report From The Coalface
Published 12 January 2022

Tom Fahey, general manager of The Terrace in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, notes how the pandemic has changed the way the restaurant does business.

'We opened in June 2020 but have yet to see a full year of operation. Throughout that time we’ve closed, offered takeaway, opened outside only, and constructed private dining bubbles in response to ever-changing regulations.

'We are lucky in our location beside the Solent but it brings a problem that will be with us forever - navigating the boom-and-bust of a seasonal tourism-driven island economy. In summer our 100 seats could be filled four times over, in winter we may serve as few as ten diners daily. For purely economic reasons it makes sense to close from October to March, but this would mean losing the passionate and knowledgeable team we’ve built up over the last year, and it seems a somewhat crude employment practice generally.

'Covid has been helpful in this regard, forcing us to alter our approach and giving us the confidence to cope with the dilemma of losing money in the off-season. Currently we are going all out, opening 360 days a year, seven days a week on the basis that reducing changes to opening times breeds customer confidence, ensures local residents aren’t neglected and keeps our team gainfully employed year round. Our brunches do well from 10am and we have a strong trade in barista coffee. By hosting themed wine nights twice a month we’ve been able to fill the restaurant and teach the team new skills, our good-value set lunch seems to be gaining traction among those who had previously felt we might be a bit ‘fancy’, and we’ve seen good uptake of our Terrace at Home catering service.

'Will seven day opening be sustainable? Like most restaurants aspiring to serve good food we will have a better chance of finding out once the pandemic is behind us and consumer confidence returns. But if there is one thing Covid has taught us as operators, it is to know we possess the resilience and confidence needed to respond to challenges without sacrificing our personal standards.'