‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel’ - Zaks owner optimistic about diners’ future
PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:37 11 May 2020
The owner of a Norfolk restaurant chain says he is optimistic it will “ride out the storm” and that independent restaurants will thrive once lockdown eases.
Chris Carr, who co-owns Zaks Authentic American Diners with Ian Hacon, has said while the coming months will be tough he thinks there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for businesses which have kept in contact with customers during lockdown.
Mr Carr, 44, and Mr Hacon took over Zaks - which has locations in Poringland and Barrack Street and Mousehold in Norwich - at the end of January 2020, and said they could never have foreseen what the future held.
The business is currently in the process of asking customers whether they would support a drive-in takeaway service once lockdown eases.
Mr Carr said the decision of whether or not to launch the service would be dependent on what the government said with regards to easing lockdown on Sunday, but was a matter of when rather than if.
He said: “The drive-in takeaway service is something we did before we decided to fully close, we ran the service for about a week before lockdown. We had a massive response but the wellbeing of our team has always been at the forefront of our decision making process in the past few weeks.”
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Mr Carr said he thought full lockdown would continue for a “little bit” longer, but hoped they might be able to reopen soon.
He said: “We think June might be the time when people have a little bit more freedom.”
He said the reason the restaurant chain hadn’t continued to run a delivery or takeaway service during lockdown, while others had, was because it did not want to lose communication with its customers.
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“We don’t want to lose the personal touch with customers, for Zaks it’s all about service, we don’t want to lose that communication.”
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He said while the takeaway service would not make the business any money it was key in securing its future. He said: “We’re not actually going to make any money from it and the reason we’re doing it is to get some of our furloughed staff back to work, we’re not really going to cover our overheads.
“If we don’t get [customers’] support [for the service] we won’t be able to do it.”
Mr Carr said since start of lockdown, he and Mr Hacon had been doing a lot behind the scenes to secure the company financially, but were also investing in it.
“We’ve got concerns but we’re confident and we’re not causing problems, we’re solving them.”
He said: “It’s going to be a difficult summer but we’re very optimistic and that will be shared by our customers, and our team have been amazing.”
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Mr Carr said post-lockdown he thought those restaurants and businesses which had kept in touch with customers during the pandemic would be more resilient, and added: “I don’t want to think we will see casualties because I think with the mood of the nation there will be a lot of support and momentum for restaurants which have been doing takeaways.
“I actually think in the local community, those that are responding [to the pandemic] will come out of it stronger, the ones that won’t come through it are the ones who haven’t engaged with customers.
“I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a little way away but those who have been responding, they will be in a really strong place by the end of the year.
“That’s what I’m hanging on to and that’s the vision, yes it will be tough, and it’s going to be hard and maybe some tough decisions [will be needed].
“Zaks has been around for 44-years, it’s going to have to ride out the storm, and I’m sure there are lots of other independent business that are trying all they can to come out the other side.”
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