From Lockdown to Franchising – A Restaurant Beyond the Plate

In the second entry of our new blog series shining a spotlight on Skipton businesses, we take a look at something we all need to do, and also miss not being able to go out to do – eating.

By Liz Smailes, Marketing & Communications Officer, Skipton BID

Takeaway meals, readymade meals and quick bites on-the-go were already part of a weekly relief from the need to cook at home. Most households were dining out at least once a week. Soaking up the ambiance, taking in the background music, the social element of dining together and enjoying fresh food that wasn’t prepared in a microwave or unpackaged and placed in an oven for 20 minutes. That luxury of being waited on and not having to do the clean up afterwards.

From July 4th, dining out will be considerably different when restaurants begin to reopen their doors following the forced closures due to the onset of COVID-19. At the beginning of the year, the idea that Skipton’s version of restaurant dining would arrive in a cardboard box delivered to your doorstep was inconceivable. Now, it’s just another part of the new world order. The pandemic may have forced the town’s restaurants to close their doors, but top-tier dining establishments and cafes have pivoted their business models to recreate the dining experience at home, delivering everything from three-course meals, tasting menus and platters to afternoon tea.

We asked one of Skipton’s long-standing restaurants to share their lockdown transformation. Originally launched in 2008, Claire & Peter Hanson acquired the restaurant from the Oakley family in 2016. Claire had been the front of house manager for 5 years and helped turn the restaurant into what it is today. 

A busy lockdown at Oakley’s 

By Claire and Peter Hanson

Before the lockdown, which came the day before Mother’s Day, Oakley’s already had a delivery service in place that we had been offering for eight months. This put us in a strong position from the very beginning when the restaurant had to close.

We always wanted to keep our delivery service going, and keep as many of our team working as was financially viable, and for as long as it was safe to do so. The first few weeks, when most restaurants and takeaways closed down in Skipton, we found ourselves so busy and delivering to a wider area that included Colne, Keighley, Barnoldswick and even Haworth. It came as a surprise to see that our reputation stretched further and stronger than we thought in the surrounding towns, and in return, receiving some great feedback and support from our loyal customers.

Out of lockdown, the delivery service will continue running 12-9pm, seven days a week for the rest of the year, then we’ll review how things look after that.

From our kitchen to your dining room

The challenge with delivering restaurant standard food is that the burgers, pizzas and pastas etc have to arrive at the doorstep on time, and maintain the high standards and quality that customers expect and get in the restaurant. It can have an adverse effect on your business and reputation if you get it wrong. Thankfully we managed to adapt quickly to the high demand (baring a few glitches), and the delivery service over the last few months has actually enhanced our reputation.

We are proud that we have been able to provide meals everyday during lockdown, delivering from 12-9pm to people in isolation, care homes and our loyal customers. On weekends we had up to five drivers delivering food, it was a bit crazy but when we look back, we laugh about how we managed it. We are immensely proud of how quickly our staff adapted, and worked so hard alongside us to provide meals to people who needed it most while they were in isolation.

Behind the scenes

We have made some positive changes to the interior in preparation for when we can reopen. The whole restaurant has been refurbished and we have been working with the ‘chalkmaster’, who has done a great job with his artwork. Guests will also be able to admire a flower wall, created by Cosmos flowers of Ilkley, and new lights that look great during the evening to give the restaurant a different atmosphere to the daytime experience. 

We created a homemade cheesecake for our home delivery menu, which has proven to be such a popular choice that some weekends we almost couldn’t keep up with the demand. It therefore makes sense to add this item to our dessert menu when we are open.

Oakley’s Grill and Pizzeria restaurant is located in one of Skipton’s historic old mill buildings. The architectural character of this once rag mill runs through all floors and rooms of the restaurant.

We have also changed our wine supplier to the Wright Wine & Whisky Company in Skipton, something we have wanted to do for years but just never got around to making that change. Their managing director, Julian Kaye, has put together some great wines that really compliment our menu. Hopefully people will support local business when things reopen, as we all rely on each other for so many things, and I think the lockdown has made people realise that. 

Reopening 

We look forward to getting our team back together – around 35 people work as part of the Oakley’s team – and we know they are all looking forward to getting the restaurant back open and welcoming people back through the doors.

With the risk assessment completed for the restaurant to reopen in July, we are looking forward to welcoming the public back to dine with us when it’s safe to do so. This all depends on the guidelines the government will issue shortly. We’re confident to be ready, welcoming guests from the first day possible and have already taken lots of bookings via our Resdiary online booking system. People can also book a table via our website.

The future at Oakley’s

New chalkboard menus are just one of the contactless measures guests can expect when the restaurant reopens from July 4th.

We have just signed up for another 10 years at our current location on Albert Street in Skipton. Although we have been busy, it has been nice to spend some time with the family and re-evaluate everyday life, thereby acknowledging what is important to us. 

Last year, as well as introducing our delivery service, we put together a franchise package as a way of expanding our business. This was beginning to generate interest just before lockdown, from people wanting to start their own restaurant business, and join our team at Oakley’s. Hopefully we will find the right partner this year, and look to open our second restaurant somewhere in the local area. Franchising is a great way to start a business, as it reduces the risks, and enables the franchisee to benefit from the support and experience that we have gained over the past four years. 

Thank you – and we look forward seeing you after July 4th!

Claire & Peter Hanson

Oakleys Grill & Pizzeria Ltd

5 Albert Street, Skipton, BD23 1JD

01756 796216

www.oakleys-restaurant.co.uk

For anyone interested in more information or to receive a prospectus on Oakley’s franchise details, please call our agent Andy Cheetham at Lime licensing group on 01274 662001.https://franchiselife.co.uk/listing/oakleys-grill-pizzeria-restaurant-franchise

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