‘I’m really cautious’ - Japanese restaurant owner says he is in no rush to reopen
PUBLISHED: 18:39 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:21 09 July 2020
The owner and chef behind a long-standing Japanese restaurant says he is in no rush to reopen and will instead focus on takeaways as the country takes tentative steps towards normality.
Shun Tomii, who runs Shiki on Tombland in Norwich, has offered delivery and collection meals since the start of lockdown, which he said is unlikely to change anytime soon.
He said he wants to take a “really cautious” approach for the sake of his staff, family and customers.
“We have just opened the outside tables for people to have food when they take away, but we are not operating as a restaurant yet,” he said.
“At the moment we are just focusing on that, but not in the dining area. I’m not going to do that this month or maybe even next month... I’m really, really cautious.”
He said changing government advice made it difficult for owners to reopen, and said he would prefer to see whether coronavirus outbreaks returned in autumn.
The restaurant, which has furloughed some of its staff, has found success with takeaways in lockdown.
“The support from local customers has been incredible, people are ordering every week,” he said. “We aren’t doing as much as we used to when the restaurant was open, but we have furloughed a few staff so we now have minimum staff and I think we have been doing quite well.”
Mr Tomii is a well-known figure in the Norwich food industry - the restaurant marked its 15th birthday last year, he is a dedicated Norwich City fan and is active on social media.
“I can’t keep up with all the moves, I’ve run out of ideas,” he said. “I’ve got to concentrate on the restaurant - I’m more chef than dancer.
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“We had a good response and people seemed to like it. I didn’t think I was going to continue for three or four months so I can be proud.”
This virtual connection, he said, had ensured restaurants kept in good contact with customers.
“We can’t see customers’ faces as much as before but I feel like we have more connection because people give us good response on Instagram and email to say how nice the food was, and we all really appreciate that.”
While Shiki offered some Deliveroo orders before lockdown started, Mr Tomii said it was a small part of the business compared to now.
“It was difficult because we didn’t have any drivers in the beginning, so we had to recruit some drivers in,” he said. “We didn’t focus much on the Deliveroo side before because we had so many customers in the restaurant, but that changed with Covid-19. We had to adapt to the situation and I think we did that.
“I think [take away] is going to be the new normal. People want to feel safe.”
While it has been tough on business, Mr Tomii said the lockdown had brought some positives.
Last April, he and his wife Maiko Tomii welcomed their son Kiraku into the world, just days before the Canaries secured promotion back to the Premier League. As a tribute to club, they gave their baby son their middle name ‘Farkelife’.
“I live nearby so I can go home regularly,” he said. “The opening hours were three hours for lunch and two in the evening, so I had more time with my kid and my family, so in that way it was nice.”
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