Rockfish Group sees strong trade since reopening

Rockfish seafood restaurant group in Devon and Dorset have now opened the full estate of 9 restaurants in the group, including their restaurant in Poole, which opened in late January this year only to be shut down two months later due to the pandemic.

Openings were phased during July to ensure all COVID security measures were implemented to plan. The measures put in place have given existing and new guests a great deal of reassurance and a video walk through showing these measures has been hailed as an industry leader.

Sales in some sites are already equal to last year and overall like for like (LFL) sales are currently only 7% below last summer’s trading despite social distancing measures which reduces covers available. Sales from takeaways are seeing a +40% LFL as the South West sees an influx of visitors.

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been widely used and the group saw 75% of covers across the group, around 20,000, booked up for August on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesdays within 2 days of announcing the scheme to their customer database.

The Brixham restaurant and takeaway, which overlooks the fishing fleet, has undergone a refurbishment, with a new bar and extended outdoor eating area on the balcony. The site will also be opening up a state-of-the-art fishmongers after the summer, a return to his roots for founder Mitch Tonks who opened a fishmongers in Bath in 1995.

All jobs at Rockfish were saved with no redundancies and everyone is now back off furlough. A further 25 team members have been recruited to meet the demands and plans of the business.

Tonks said, “I’m astounded by both the guest feedback and the numbers for our first month since reopening. We knew that staycations and the coast would be a massive draw as the summer arrived but there were too many unknowns and variables to accurately predict customer behaviour.

'We went into lockdown looking at our best year to date, so it was hard to know that all we’d done could be lost. But we’ve used the time whilst the business has been closed to make what we do better for both staff and guests. Our absolute focus has been on protecting our staff and our business and coming out of this thriving.

'We have put a lot of work into making sure everyone feels reassured, comfortable and really happy to come to our restaurants. Our videos walking people round some of our restaurants and showing them what we are actually doing have been talked about by guests and by industry extensively.

'People have liked being able to trust that we have the Covid security covered but not at the expense of hospitality, restraints can still be fun and safe without the expense of either which is a fine balance to achieve.

'Our exec team has talked daily throughout the lockdown and analysed every aspect of the business so that on reopening we were in as good a position as we could be. There will be plenty of challenges ahead, we are not in a bubble and have a long winter ahead but we remain optimistic about people wanting to eat fresh fish by the sea.

'I have an amazing team throughout the business who bring energy, commitment and real care to each other and their work. I think we are better and stronger than we were and, if we can quickly adapt to constant change, I believe the future can be navigated safely.”