You may all be distracted by less important things, like the riots and discord engulfing the western world, and that’s why it’s important that those of us who bring you the news highlight the truly grave injustices that are being perpetrated on the people:
Guidelines for reopening the hospitality industry following the Covid-19 lockdown are due to be published on Tuesday and sources involved in the drafting of the documents say pubs intending to open at the end of month may be asked to provide two courses and operate table service.
Hotels will also be advised to place key cards onto guests’ phones, ban buffets and provide breakfast in the room.
Sources have said there is concern in the hospitality industry at the impact this will have on five-star hotels in particular and that further advice may be needed in relation to spas.
The Irish Times journalist, Mark Paul, might be the only man in Ireland talking sense on this subject. Indeed, he’s been strident in his defence of the breakfast buffet since this awful idea was first mooted back in May:
No, no, no. A buffet breakfast is absolutely essential to a proper hotel experience. Breakfast is not like other meals.
— Mark Paul (@MarkPaulTimes) May 12, 2020
He’s right, isn’t he? Breakfast is not like other meals. It might be the only time of the day when we eat out of genuine hunger, and not out of habit or as part of a social occasion. You troop out of your hotel room at god knows o’clock, hair still wet, and if you’re staying on business, probably facing into a day of unmentionably boring meetings.
You don’t want the embarrassment of telling your waiter that actually you’d like two fried eggs, and you’d like to make your toast into a black pudding sandwich with ketchup.
The huge advantage of the breakfast buffet is that there’s as much food as you can fit on your plate, and you don’t have to explain to the waiter what your weird food preferences are. Let’s face it, if you go to a fancy restaurant, there’s a bit of you that’s mortified to tell the waiter that you’d like mayonnaise on your steak, or whatever. With a buffet, that embarrassment is removed, and you can ditch the eggs and have four sausages (my own embarrassing preference), or indulge whatever weird food combination you’d like.
In fact, the only preference the breakfast buffet doesn’t provide for is those of us who like tea with our milk, rather than the other way around. Hotels always provide teensy little jugs of milk, as if to make a point that people who like milky tea are bad people.
Moving away from the basic goodness of the breakfast buffet, there’s also the economic point. Breakfast is about the one time when the interests of the hotel, and the interests of the guest, align. You don’t want to sit down and wait for someone to take an order, and they don’t want to have thirty people working on breakfasts. The buffet is the ideal solution for both parties – it reduces hotel costs while providing the guest with everything they need.
Abolishing it will increase costs, and reduce convenience.
And it’s not just in the hotel sector, either. Here’s a restaurant owner from Cork:
When it comes to announcing that people can see their Granny again, it’s announced by a press conference.
When it’s announced that many businesses will be no longer be viable, it’s hidden in a Fáilte Ireland handbook and released online at 07.30.#PhysicalDistancing
— Richard Jacob (@idahocafe) June 9, 2020
For a lot of businesses in the hospitality sector, “being allowed to re-open” will not be the same thing as “being allowed to make a living”.
If you’re limited to a certain number of customers, it might not pay you to employ a chef and waiting staff and barmen.
Many of these businesses thrive on large groups, also. The average restaurant makes more money from birthday parties and corporate dinners than it does from your romantic meal for two. If they end up being limited to hosting you for your date night, they’ll probably go out of business sooner rather than later.
And what’s worse, of course, is that insurance may not cover them. They’re open, after all. It’s just that they can’t attract enough customers.
It’s a nightmare for everyone. Not just those of us who value our four sausages at breakfast.