Waterford.FYI recently spoke to Jim Gordon, aka Flash, on how he has gotten through the past few months. Read what life has been like for him after he had to close his kitchen at Oskars Bar & Restaurant in March and press pause on business at Revolution Craft Beer and Whiskey Bar during the pandemic.
For someone who is very customer-centric and a familiar face around town, these past few months have been pretty hard for him. Not one to stay idle for long, Flash is looking forward to getting back in the kitchen where he enjoys plating up dishes to hungry customers. No more complaints about being bored so 🙂 We wish him all the best in reopening Oskars on June 29th, the count down is on…
Read the interview
How have things changed for you since the lockdown in March?
With the pub and restaurant trade, it’s like zero business since just before Patricks’ Day until now. All our staff are on COVID payments; everything is on stop but we’re looking forward to reopening Oskars on June 29th. Social distancing will be a tough one but luckily we have two very large premises. You’ll be greeted on arrival and we’ll do a carvery menu and table service, so people won’t need to get up and walk around. Hopefully, we’ll be able to create a bit of turnover. All our food that’s available in the bar and restaurant will be available for takeaway.
For Revolution, as a whiskey bar which we’ve won Best Whiskey Bar of the Year Award a number of times for, we’re doing a thing called bottle share where you can buy a measure of whiskey from our super-premium range of bottles worth 1000 or 2000 euros. We bottle it up all nicely and pop it in the post; we’ve had orders from France, the States, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and a good few Irish orders too. A business we never thought we’d be in…
How has the shutdown of so much impacted the community, your staff, and suppliers?
The ones that I feel worse for, and the ones that have been most helpful, are our draft beer suppliers. They’ve taken back all our stock which are dated ahead 3 months and would be out of date by the time we reopen. They will give us credit and deliver fresh stock the week we reopen. Our food suppliers are just waiting for us to come back: we deal with Tom Kearney Butchers, Billy Burke for our fish and Eoin Dunphy veg, so it’s a lot of local suppliers who can’t wait for us to be back and to supply us again. We know we’re not gonna do 50% of the business but we’ll take baby steps to get where we should be.
Staff wise, they’re the same as myself – going stir crazy at home, looking for things to do. I’m wondering when we all come back will we actually know each other, anymore? Will the tempers get frayed?? Haha. I’m looking forward to getting back in front of customers again. I’d be very customer-centric and am doing Facebook posts every day to our customers just telling them we’ll be here for them when we reopen. Our menus will be the same and we’ll have the same type and level of service, so don’t be afraid.
Are you connecting with your customers?
Yes. On social media, I’ve ran a couple of video feeds when I’m bored at home on a Sunday when I used to be cooking 500 lunches. We’re also going through our archive; so last Sunday we put up a picture of our local customers a few weeks after we first opened who are still our customers. People are liking and tagging and sharing and all that sort of thing and all our old photos are coming back into vogue again. It’s really cool and it’s lovely to remind them of the way things were, that we’ll be back and are here for you.
How can customers and communities support local retailers like yourself?
Support your local restaurant, your local butcher, fishmonger, veg shop rather than the big boys; these are the people we need to support. I know personally from Revolution, we were always asked to spot prizes for the local GAA team, local school, football team, etc. The people that you asked to support your local sports team, these are the people you should be shopping with. I think you’ll see a lot of support towards small, local independent businesses.
I know across from Boxworks, we have a fishmongers – O’ Dohertys. I take pictures each week of the queue going all the way up the street and it’s great to see that. So they’re doing phenomenal business. It’s the same for butchers, they tell me there are ladies you’d never see coming into the butchers to order their Sunday roast, it’s funny. There are also places like Burzza and Loko that are doing takeaways and doing really well. Fair justice to everyone who are getting in there and supplying food to the local community.
Do you feel ready to reopen?
A week before we open, staff must fill in a health form and submit it to us. When the staff clock in and clock out, there will be a thermal imaging camera to check their temperature and we have an automatic system that asks are they well and checks their temperature every four hours. Kitchen-wise, it will be sanitised within an inch of its life and all counters sanitised every half hour while we’re doing prep and will have social distancing within the kitchen system.
When you come into the bar or restaurant, every second table will be cordoned off and you’ll be allocated a table. We’ll have a meet and greet system. We’re also working with Jordan Casey, SCNE app developer who is working on an app so that you can order drinks on your phone and pay for your food and drinks. It’s as contactless as possible but having the friendly face behind it. You will not be able to go to the bar counter, so it will take away the quiet chat with the customer at the bar but we’ll get used to it. We’ve been chatting with Waterford City Council about how to prepare the city centre for reopening and getting more outdoor tables on pedestrianised areas, to become more European, I suppose. We’re engaging with the national bodies to get all the steps right in reopening.
Do you feel there’s enough information out there?
Too much actually! We’re trying to condense 50-page documents into a 2 or 3-page checklist for the bar and restaurant on what we need to do before reopening. It takes hours to read.
Have you availed of the financial supports?
Yes, we have with the COVID-19 payment and from the LEO to help update our website and we’re working with Jordan Casey to develop online menus for eat-in and takeaway. We have availed of the ones from the electricity and gas companies too who have paused our standing charges.
What’s been the hardest part for you of all this?
Boredom! I’m a workaholic and I would work 60/70/80 hours a week; I love being around customers and there’s nothing better than face to face with customers and having a laugh with them. I suppose I’m a chef by trade, barman by nature and cooking for myself is horrendous. I’m used to eating in the bar and rarely used my kitchen at home – the poor thing is nearly worn out at this stage!
Go-to activity to relax?
Walking, which is something that i never get a chance to do. My morning walk about 8 or 9am and then after dark, I love to go for a walk to tire myself out a little bit. I’m not tired anymore so I can’t sleep so the walk helps me sleep a bit better.
If you had one message for your customers, what would it be?
Support local businesses rather than chain stores, support local staff and be nice to front-of-house staff because they’re the poepl that are bedning over backwards to provide a service. 99% of them are doing their best.