We wanted to get in touch to let you know a bit about Hawksmoor and how we’ve reacted to the Coronavirus crisis. As we write this we have the words of a magazine we read recently in our mind, admonishing its readers that, ‘brands are not your friends!’. That is of course true, but our sense at Hawksmoor is that people who work here have a strong attachment to the people who come into our restaurants and that many of you have a strong attachment not to the brand, but to the people who personify it so well. As a result, we’re going to focus our email to you today on people.
The last few weeks have been the most difficult any of us at Hawksmoor have experienced in our professional lives. On a personal note if you want to know what that was like, I (Will) recorded a podcast this week about it, which is about 40 minutes long and can be found here. The most difficult day was of course Tuesday 17th, when we closed all our restaurants and laid off some of the wonderful people who worked at Hawksmoor, in a week that saw thousands of business close and between 500,000 and 1 million people lose their jobs in hospitality alone.
The case for closing the restaurants was clear to us – the Prime Minister had said that people should not be going to restaurants and it was clear that the single most important thing that we needed to think of as restaurateurs and company directors was public health. It was an incredibly hard decision on a personal level, but a very easy one in terms of being undoubtedly the right thing to do.
The decision to lay off some of our colleagues was much more difficult. We’ve never had to make a decision like it and it was a deeply painful step to have to take. In fact, over the last 2 weeks we’ve had to make a host of decisions the likes of which we haven’t encountered before. On some days we’ve had to make them every hour, with incomplete information and a landscape that changes so fast that half a day often feels more like a week. It’s been 14-hour days seven days a week for many of us for well over a fortnight.
On Monday last week it became obvious that we were moments away from having £0 revenue but massive costs. We felt we needed to make a decision to protect Hawksmoor, not for financial reasons, but so we could one day get back to being the business we’ve all loved for so many years, employing as many people as we ever did and hopefully more. We also wanted to save as many jobs as we felt we could at the time – even before the Chancellor’s announcement on Friday we had worked out how we were going to protect hundreds of jobs throughout this crisis.
The good news for all of us is that following the Chancellor’s announcement last Friday we are now going to be able to bring those people back so they can get the support they deserve during this crisis. We are writing to all of them today to give them the option of coming back into the company on a furloughed basis.
We are also doing everything we can to support our team in other ways, with details on how they can get further financial and emotional support, ideas of how to make their money go further, and to try to keep people connected during any self-isolation or social distancing.
That is the new reality of our company. We are now temporarily a small support organisation for the people who work here and for our wider community, and we are continuing to operate under the Hawksmoor assumption that if we look after our people they will be able to look after others.
We have already seen an incredible swell of activity and altruism from our teams, from signing up to be NHS volunteers, helping out in their local communities or being temporary delivery drivers for City Harvest, to whom we donated all our food last week to help feed those who need it most. Over the coming weeks we hope to do more.
Knowing how to communicate with you during this period is difficult. I know none of you are at home wondering what a steak restaurant thinks about the current crisis, what its owners do for an exercise routine or what its chefs had for their lunch today. We do have some ideas for ways in which we could perhaps try to brighten up your days very briefly or how we could bring people together, even virtually, and if you have any ideas then we would be glad to hear them, but that is not for now. We serve a very clear purpose in your lives – a place where you feel welcomed, refreshed and looked after.
We are certain that those times will come again, and hopefully soon, but however long it takes to beat this virus we will be there on the other side waiting for you. We’re looking forward to that more than you can imagine. In the meantime, stay safe and know that the many hundreds of people who work at Hawksmoor are fine and looking forward to celebrating and commiserating with you again when this is over.