On 1st May, a little over a month after Government ordered the shutdown of restaurants, pubs and bars across the UK, Rowena Romulo and Chris Joseph, owners of Romulo Café & Restaurant in Kensington, decided it was time to take the plunge and re-open for customers content to limit their experience of Romulo Café’s fine Filipino cuisine to deliveries and take-aways.
‘We told ourselves we had to grab the opportunity to at least stay open for business during the pandemic, and we set about making some key decisions. We knew we had to comply with social distancing and other health and safety measures imposed upon us by the coronavirus. First, we decided to limit our operations to just four days a week, Thursdays to Sundays,’ says Rowena.
Romulo Café and Restaurant was already operating a successful take-away and delivery service with delivery partners Just Eat and UberEats, whom they continue to use, and they have now added Deliveroo to their roster of contact-free delivery services. Thus, besides enjoying a reliable source of dishwasher and microwave-safe food packaging produced using recyclable materials (which can be recycled in most UK boroughs as well as reused for so many things around the house!), they also have an ample supply of delivery boxes which keep food at safe temperatures, a legacy of Romulo Café and Restaurant’s thriving pre-Covid 19 outdoor catering business.
Adapting to new circumstances has been a challenge, but ex-international banker Rowena and former food franchise professional Chris have become adept entrepreneurs, having succeeded in embedding fine Filipino cuisine in London’s cosmopolitan but demanding restaurant sector.
They’ve converted the front of their 80-seater restaurant, which includes a bar, into a collection point clearly demarcating a 2-meter distance between staff and take-away customers or delivery drivers, including their own (for areas not covered by their delivery partners). Heightened handwashing, wearing gloves and face masks or coverings are all part of the new normal, as are repeated surface sanitising and disinfecting. They’re also making the best use of technology when it comes to menus, taking orders and collecting payment.
‘We know that official advice is evolving, but at the moment we’ve upped our health, safety and hygiene game and a lot of our operations for the sake of the wellbeing of our staff and customers,’ says Chris.
‘We’d love to be able to re-open as a proper restaurant again, but we can only guess at the moment what we’ll have to do then to offer everyone the assurance they need. As operators who take professional pride in our business, we’re taking a common sense but also informed approach and we’re grateful for the helpful guidance published by organisations such as Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. We hope that as the lockdown eases and our business moves on to the next phase, even more information and support will be forthcoming. Right now, we’re just taking it one day at a time.’