The creativity of the hospitality industry has been more evident than ever in recent times, and Prawn On The Lawn is an example. Faced with the prospect of their Padstow site remaining shut due to distancing difficulties, Rick and Katie decided to relocate to a nearby farm. We spoke to them about the project, lessons they learnt in lockdown and where they are looking forward to eating again.
Our sites in Padstow are just 20-seater restaurants and effectively with social distancing rules it meant we could only get roughly 8 covers in, so it wasn’t really a viable option to keep going.
Katie came up with a genius idea of approaching Ross from Padstow Kitchen Garden who grows all our veg about potentially moving the restaurant to a field they have, normally used for weddings and events. They were really up for it and have been super helpful, enabling us to get a marquee set up. We’ll effectively move the whole restaurant up there with more covers than we’d have from both restaurants combined!
Yes, it will be the same set up. A normal day at Prawn On The Lawn involves the menu changing and rotating four or five times throughout the day just depending on what we get in fresh from the fish counter. We still will have the fish counter running in Padstow itself with the daily deliveries coming in there and we’ll work the menu based on that.
Our daughter was born a week before lockdown, so there was a lot going on! We took three/ four weeks just to kind of step back and work out what our plan of attack was going to be and how to cope. So, we closed our London site for a few weeks and then reopened as a fishmonger – as soon as we had the go ahead to allow customers in, we did so! We’re running on around a third of capacity currently.
In London we’ve got the benefit of having the private dining space and a large enough square footage to be able to tackle the social distancing more effectively. Down here (in Padstow) the major challenge is that we’ve had to move our restaurant to the middle of a field with no power, gas or water! It seemed like a great idea until about a week ago when we started tearing our hair out. Mine and Katie’s focus has been on making sure we keep all the staff employed and that we don’t lose anyone.
A great thing for us doing the farm has been that we’ve been able to employ new people as well, so we’ve actually added to the team! The challenge for more rural and coastal businesses will be what happens post October, after the half term. Will there still be people wanting to come down and how busy will it be? And what state will the social distancing be in come the end of October?
The no-show issue has been getting worse over the last 5-10 years, every year! It got to the point for us around 3 years ago where with only a 20-seater restaurant on one evening we had 26-covers not show up, out of a potential 40 across two sittings. That was the height of summer where we need to be taking our money to get through the winter period… so we just had to implement a system of people giving their credit card details through our card system. Unfortunately, if you don’t give us 24-hour notice then we charge £25pp.
All of a sudden, it helped massively, but it’s a shame we had to implement that but ultimately, we need the business to survive. There’s a lot of people that depend on it, from employees right through to suppliers.
I think it’s always good to have that time to step back and have a look at how your business is running. The challenge of doing the farm has been brilliant, because at the end of it we’ll have a lot of confidence to go into maybe festival situations having been able to put this together ourselves.
It’s a big positive for the team as well that the they’re actually going to come out with an amazing experience, to have a change of scenery and get back to a super busy place. In the first five days, we’ve got 750 covers booked, which is just incredible. Our aim is to finish the year on a high, turn it around and make it something really positive for everyone.
Katie and I are desperate to go to The Seahorse al Mare on the Embankment. They’ve got a covered area outside the restaurant, nice terrace menu and cooking stuff over the fire, nice bottle of rose, when we can get away from the farm! Maybe when it’s closed on a Monday… That would be a highlight for sure!
To find out more about Prawn On The Farm (/ Lawn) or to book a table, visit the website here
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