Salt House Bacaro
We spoke to GM, Bryson, about reopening after Covid-lockdown.
Bryson has been the GM of Salthouse Bacaro on Castle Street for 4 years now. He’s seen the business grow to become one of the most popular restaurants in the city, with a loyal customer base who love their relaxed environment and small plate offering. He was looking forward to a busy Spring when Covid-19 hit, and like many businesses Bacaro found themselves in an unknown state of limbo.
“As a business, our owners took the decision to close before it was mandated. Once we knew the risk we were facing, we had to do the right thing to protect our customers and our people.” The restaurant closed with no idea when they would be permitted to open their doors again, and staff were sent back to their homes with no idea when their next shift would be.
The mental health and wellbeing of his staff have always been incredibly important to Bryson, and he was concerned about the impact of so much uncertainty on his team. This became a key focus during lockdown, so Bryson implemented a regular schedule of zoom calls between managers and team members.
“We’re hospitality people so we’re naturally extroverts and entertainers at heart. We love being around other people and suddenly that was taken away from us. Some of my team don’t have family nearby so it was important to me that we checked in on them regularly and gave them the support they needed to get through the lockdown period.”
This support meant that Bryson managed to retain his entire team during lockdown, and he was keen to involve them in the process of reopening the restaurant.
“Coming out of lockdown our staff were split – whilst some were desperately keen to get back to work and serve our customers, some were still apprehensive about the risk. So, we worked collaboratively. I asked the team what risks they could identify, and what hazards concerned them coming back to work. They came back to me with over 20 points, and with the help of Foursquare and the Covid-Safe scheme we built these into our Covid-19 risk assessment. As a team we discussed how this would impact on service, and what measures needed to be put in place.”
This included the decision to opt for visors over masks for those serving tables. “So much of how we communicate and interact as people is based on facial expressions. We didn’t want to hide the smile on our faces when welcoming our customers back!”
Bryson recognises that their risk assessment is a living document which needs to be updated, amended and changed as they navigate the new normal. All his staff carry hand sanitiser on their belts and are encouraged to use it frequently in addition to regular handwashing. Tables, chairs and surfaces are cleaned between every customer with a deep clean of the restaurant taking place each evening. There’s no doubt that safety and hygiene are taking a front seat, but Bryson is keen to ensure that this doesn’t impact on service.
Customer experience is critical for Bryson, who says the goal for his team is to make customers so happy that they tell their friends about their visit. “People come back for our great food, but they also come back for our amazing people. Experience is a critical part of our job and introducing extra measures to protect our staff and customers in the new normal can’t be an excuse for poor service.”
Feedback from customers so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and Bryson is optimistic about the future. “We’ve overcome some of the biggest challenges a business can face, and there’s no doubt it’s made us stronger as a team.”