Since we reopened we have mainly been using paper plates. Not ideal but we don’t have the space at the moment for three people to wash up so for the time being we’re trying to limit the pans, crockery, cutlery and utensils.
Today we found another benefit came from using paper plates.
Soup has returned to our menu.
We’ve made it every morning since I remembered to add bloomer bread to our delivery from the bakery and since we managed to dig out the soup pan and blender from the back of a cupboard.
No one was happier to see SOUP on a chalkboard than Peter and Janet (who come two or three times a week to tend our large garden) but their excitement was not because they wanted soup for lunch.
It was because they have an abundance of courgettes from their own garden and they know we’ll use them.
Today’s soup was courgette, celery and pea. It was very green.
We made an appearance in the Saturday Express magazine this weekend. A lovely surprise. Yesterday I took a call from a lady who is bringing her family to this area during half term and wanted to book a special tea for five people. She’d read about us in the magazine, she told me. That’ll do nicely.
Today is the last day of Eat Out To Help Out, the government scheme which has run throughout August where on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays customers have 50% off the cost of their order. The government pays the other half up to a maximum of £10 per person.
The scheme has meant we’ve been particularly busy at the beginning of the week and as today is also a Bank Holiday we are bracing ourselves. This is our only Bank Holiday of the season.
Most people know about EOTHO and smile happily or raise their eyebrows when their bill for sandwiches, tea and scones is so low. Some make no comment at all but surely walk away with a spring in their step. Some add items - extra drinks, an extra sandwich, a cake each instead of to share...
One lady last week made me very happy. When I added up her lunch order and told her that the Chancellor was paying for half of it she said “Ooh, in that case I’ll have a bag of crisps.”
Yesterday a man walked through the gate at which is a large sign explaining our new working methods, past the outdoor counter and another sign “Order Here”, through a door marked “Staff Only” and inside.
“I’m sorry but you’re not allowed in here at the moment”
“How was I supposed to know that?”
We are getting a lot of phone calls.Many more than we’re used to.For all previous seasons 90% of calls were from someone trying to save us money on our electricity bills but now 90% are asking are you open? do we have to book? can we reserve a table for 4? can we have afternoon tea under a gazebo? Last week I took a booking from someone who wanted to book High Tea for Four - a range of sandwiches, homemade scones and cakes. Plus the tea.“Any dietary requirements?” I asked“One of the ladies is vegetarian,” she replied, “so just give her tuna or something.”
Today was the first day of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
We registered last week having been undecided for a while - would it be worth the extra paperwork? Would visitors expect it from us?
It went well today though I had to keep concentrating.
Here is now what happens as a customer approaches the counter:
Me: Hello, just to let you know we’re taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme (pointing to poster) which means that if you like we can offer you any food and drinks for half price today.
Up to a point. Although it’s pretty difficult to reach that point.
Customer: Oh right.
Me: Would you like to use the scheme?
Customer: yes please/rude not to/not everyday the government pays for a cream tea/what do I have to do?
Me: How many of you will be eating/drinking with us today?
(fills in form with answer, takes order, adds it up, tells them the total and then what they should pay, they smile/shake head/add another piece of cake).
Then I pick up the other clipboard with the other form and ask for their details for contact tracing.
This is not normal.
On Thursday we had bookings for High Tea, our special sandwiches, cakes and scones extravaganza.
In previous seasons we took bookings for larger numbers but if a visitor strolled in and fancied one we could do it. We’ve had to move this season to bookings only.
Five ladies turned up for theirs at 12 and took their time over a catch-up, food and tea. As they left they rebooked, same table same options, for next month.
The other table was for three High Teas at 1pm.
I’d had a phone call a few days earlier from a man who wanted to bring his mum (for her birthday) and his grandfather. He was so happy we we’re still doing an afternoon tea and had availability, said he’d called so many places who weren’t doing them at the moment or couldn’t fit them in.
I told him about the large garden and the gazebo situation and he said he’d like a table under one of those, said he would prefer to be outside.
He asked if we would put a candle in one of the scones for his mum.
No problem at all.
I was surprised when they hadn’t arrived by 1.30 and at 1.45 I rang his number.
I thought I may have the date wrong, or the day, or the time.
He had called me from work when he booked, was stressed and had, remember, called lots of places. He couldn’t remember exactly where he had booked so, when he picked up his grandad, he called one of the previously called numbers and asked if his reservation was with them.
They said yes.
So when I rang him he said he was indeed having tea with his mum and grandfather.
He was very apologetic.
We ate the sandwiches.
Yesterday he arrived at the tearooms to apologise in person.
He offered to pay for the High Teas.
He scanned the garden and told me the rest of the story.
When he took my call he was shocked and mortified but his mother was angry. She was cross that the other place had wrongly told him they had his reservation.
So he went to challenge them.
They admitted that they didn’t have the booking, they thought one of their staff may have failed to write it down and didn’t want to let anyone down.
I don’t think there was anything malicious in it at all. They thought they were doing the right thing.
I hope he will come back one day and bring his mum.
She deserves to sit in our garden eating scones and drinking tea and hearing from me what a lovely, classy young man she has brought up.
I was very impressed that he turned up and very happy to show him what he had missed...
Friday was sunny and our busiest day yet.
The bread order has become easier to guess but what is difficult is finding takeaway cardboard trays for the sandwiches.
Because we have a small kitchen we can only have one person washing up at the moment so all our food is being served in takeaway containers (hot drinks still in mugs and cups, pots etc). If we didn’t do this our washing up would be overwhelming so we’ve sourced lots of recyclable and compostable options.
Trouble is everyone else is doing the same thing. The source has temporarily dried up.
Today has dawned sunny and warm and there is no way we have enough cardboard trays. Will we have to open the china cupboard?
I spent most of the day in the kitchen making scones and sandwiches (brie and pear still very popular).
I wish I’d stayed there the whole time.
This afternoon the health inspector arrived to check how we’re working and whether we’re following the guidance. In heavy rain he sheltered under the gazebo at the order point and I was summoned by one of my young members of staff to talk to him.
First thing I did was offer him my hand to shake...