Where takeout has been the new eat-in

With restaurants allowed to reopen on June 29th, Catherine Heffernan, owner of Sabai can't wait to show her customers to their favourite tables again.

A little while back, Waterford.FYI caught up with Sabai restaurant Owner, Catherine Hefferan. We wanted to find out what it has been like for her to have had to close her restaurant in March and how she has been connecting with her customers. Like many restaurant owners, it has been a very tough and unusual time, full of uncertainty. Catherine and her staff have done well to adapt; they’ve been kept busy with their takeaway service, cooking the usual dishes in the kitchen but just from behind closed doors. She also recently discovered a new hobby on her days off – jigsaws. Nice!

We wish her all the best with reopening Sabai on June 29th and look forward to a meal or two there in the very near future.

If you are down on The Mall over the coming weeks, do drop in for a bite to eat as no doubt, Catherine will be only too delighted to welcome you in and show you to your table. Enjoy reading about how life has been for Catherine below.

Read the interview

How have things changed for you since the lockdown in March?

Life has been unrecognisable. We decided to close our business on the 15th March even before the announcement came from Leo Varadkar. Like many, the feelings of fear and the unknown was very heightened. We wanted to take some time to see how things were going to progress and how to get around it. We stayed closed for three weeks and then after discussions with the staff, we reopened for takeaway at the weekends. We had a lot of requests from customers who were contacting us personally. We were very lucky as our chefs share accommodation, so they were able to come back (and also very keen to work)! After three weeks of lockdown, it was time to be doing something. We were really delighted to reopen for takeaways.

Chefs at Sabai.
Credit: Sabai restaurant

How did your suppliers react?

Our suppliers were amazing. When everything was up in the air, they worked with us and reassured us that things would be as smooth as possible so I feel very grateful for that.

How can communities be of support as the moment?

I think it’s already happening and in almost an organic way. People are appreciating the little things now; life has changed so much and I suppose the things that we took for granted are so difficult now. Customers are getting in touch saying “I’d just LOVE a takeaway so I don’t have to cook :). It’s those small little things that make people feel more reassured and more comfortable – a semblance of normality.

How are you connecting with your customers?

Oh, they have been fantastic! Even though I’m not meeting people face to face, I take all the orders on the phone so I’m getting to speak to everybody. I really miss the face to face interaction but it’s just lovely to speak to people and feel like I’m doing something. I realised during the lockdown that I really need to find a good hobby for when I retire haha!

Do you feel social media has been of help?

Facebook has been incredible. Being of a certain age, I don’t use it much myself and both myself and Seamus were reluctant to use it but have found it a fantastic medium at this time.

Check out their Facebook page for updates.

I’d like to thank my customers so much…they’ve been incredible. In Waterford, I feel really proud that we have done so well. Hang in there and we’ll be outside the other side of this before we know it.

Catherine Heffernan, Sabai restaurant.

Did you feel ready to reopen?

We’re working on it and feel confident that we’ll be able to operate with the spacing of two metres. We have an outdoor space too, which if we get a decent enough summer, we can use, especially if people feel more comfortable outside. It’s an option.

Do you think there’s been enough help out there from the government?

There is quite a lot of good information out there and it’s getting really close now. Getting down to the nitty-gritty of it all; on opening day that will be tested. Everyone, even the government is flying by the seat of their pants but we’ll just have to work our away around it and with it. We were really worried when we reopened the takeaway service and in fact, the public are amazing at adapting and getting themselves informed and following protocols.

Have you availed of financial supports?

I haven’t as yet but I’m hoping to. I’d like to update our online presence (that I’ve discovered that social media is such a wonderful thing)… 🙂

Check out some of the financial supports still available below:

What has been the hardest part of all this for you?

Just having to keep distance from your family and worrying about them. I have two teenage daughters and they’re at home and I’m trying to help them get their heads around it. It’s the fear of the unknown and how long this will go on, you know? I think we will be changed dramatically and forever after all this but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are definitely some positives that can be taken out of it. I now have three days off every week, I haven’t had that much time off since I was in school.

So have you found a new hobby then?

Jigsaws are brilliant! I’ve beome a bit obsessed with them. Also, the weather has been amazing so I’ve started growing herbs in my garden. I’m hoping to be some way good at it and stock the restaurant with the herbs, hopefully some vegetables too. I’ll start easy…

What message have you for your customers?

I’d like to thank my customers so much…they’ve been incredible. In Waterford, I feel really proud that we have done so well. Hang in there and we’ll be on the other side of this before we know it.

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