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The grand reopening: What you can expect now when you visit Cambridge restaurants

The Three Horseshoes at Madingley. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Three Horseshoes at Madingley. Picture: Keith Heppell

Creating an enjoyable atmosphere and ambience in a safe environment has been the priority for Cambscuisine as it prepares to reopen five of its restaurants this Saturday (July 4).

The group runs eight sites in total in the area, four in the city centre and four traditional country pubs, and has experienced a “rollercoaster” ride during the pandemic.

In April, it was announced that St John’s Chophouse on Northampton Street was to shut permanently after 11 years.

“It was quite a difficult decision to let that go,” said Cambscuisine founder and CEO Oliver Thain.

“We were going to convert that to a pub anyway, but the thought of spending a quarter of a million pounds on a site right now when we’re trying to stay alive wasn’t particularly sensible.

“The college kindly took that back.”

Accessing the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan from HSBC was the first obstacle overcome.

Then it was a case of using the furlough scheme, rent negotiations and work behind the scenes to make sure the company was still in existence.

“The first few weeks was making sure the company was able to continue during lockdown and able to pay staff and pay rent,” said Oliver.

“It’s been a rollercoaster, and I would say it has been quite an interesting exercise in business from a leadership point of view, trying to communicate with our staff and teams.

“We’ve got 220 staff, and so remotely trying to keep in touch with them was really important to reassure them they had jobs.”

Meal tickets, takeaways and home-meal kits have been among the innovations to make sure that Cambscuisine is in “good nick” for the reopening.

New Smokeworks tap bar, 13 bene’t street cambridge. Picture: davidjohnsonphotographic.co.uk. (8881806)
New Smokeworks tap bar, 13 bene’t street cambridge. Picture: davidjohnsonphotographic.co.uk. (8881806)

Smokeworks in Free School Lane, Millworks in Newnham, The Three Horseshoes in Madingley, The Tickell Arms in Whittlesford and The Cock in Hemingford Grey will all be opening this Saturday.

The Crown and Punchbowl in Horningsea will reopen on July 9, followed by the Cambridge Chop House towards the end of July and Smokeworks on Station Road later in the summer.

“Our challenge is to make it feel as much as the same in terms of atmosphere and ambience as we did before,” said Oliver.

“Inevitably, we’re working hard to make sure all the hygiene and necessary compliance is in place.”

The Millworks interior, picture taken before the lockdown
The Millworks interior, picture taken before the lockdown

Those processes will include hand sanitiser on arrival, signage everywhere and an order-and-pay system at the table called Dine In.

There will also be the possibility to have table service, with staff starting off wearing face coverings as public opinion is gauged.

At the country venues, marquees are being put up in the gardens to utilise the outdoor space.

“How different will it be? It’s hard to predict. Our tables aren’t crammed in anyway – at all country sites and Millworks there is nice space between tables anyway,” said Oliver.

“There is very little difference to layout, but obviously we’re making sure there is the metre, although there pretty much was anyway.

“In terms of lay-out and service of food, you’re going to see very little difference. It’s just going to be the initial impact when you’re asked to come by a certain entrance, clean your hands and you might have to queue for the toilets.

“I actually feel that it’s not going to be a huge amount of difference but the customer is definitely going to feel safe with us because we have put everything into line to ensure that the customer and, just as importantly, our teams, are safe.”

Cambscuisine's 10-point plan:

  • Spacing of tables along with clear and effective signage to ensure social distancing guidelines are met.
  • Staff comprehensively retrained in procedures and their temperatures checked prior to their shift.
  • Ability for our customers to order and pay at the table using their own phone.
  • Hygiene stations on entry and exit to our sites. Key touch points sanitised regularly.
  • Toilets checked and cleaned every half-hour with hygiene stations located at the entrances.
  • Chefs wearing face coverings.
  • Full table clean down and menu sanitised between each use.
  • Cutlery and condiments will not laid up and will be bought to your table. By all means bring own cutlery or glassware should it make you feel more comfortable.
  • Screens located at key customer/staff interaction points.
  • Contactless payment where possible and we are going ‘cashless’.

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