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Donegal restaurant embraces change 30.07.20

DONEGAL restaurants were among the businesses worst hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, with most having to cease trading entirely for months, placing a huge strain on what is one of the county’s most vital sectors.
In line with the phase 3 of the government reopening roadmap, many businesses have now reopened their doors and while there remains major challenges ahead, Donegal’s hospitality sector is adapting and pivoting with the help of technology and innovation.
The Lemon Tree Restaurant introduced outdoor dining and replaced the need for handheld menus with an innovative new ordering system which allows customers to access menus via a QR code from the table.
Christopher Molloy, co-owner and chef of the Lemon Tree Restaurant in Letterkenny, noted that although the return to business is very challenging, it presents an opportunity to reinvent and embrace change.
“There is no question the past few months have been difficult but we are embracing it. The closure period offered us some time to take stock and rethink our operations. We decided to introduce a range of new services including a new click & collect service on our website, a new on-street street food style hatch and outdoor dining. We also replaced the need for handheld menus with an innovative new ordering system which allows customers to access menus via a QR code from the table, minimizing contact. The demand for our outdoor dining tables has been tremendous and being able to enjoy a meal outside in the open air has become a really attractive option for customers. We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have about these new services and we are seeing lots of new faces, which is very encouraging. With the rise of staycations and the huge support from local customers, we are in for a busy season which is great to see.”

Christopher also acknowledged that the range of government supports available has made reopening possible. “The Donegal County Council Restart Grant Scheme enabled us to hit the ground running with new equipment and supplies, providing a much needed cash flow injection within a short space of time."

Garry Martin, Director of Economic Development with Donegal County Council and a member of the Destination Tourism Taskforce in Donegal, believes that “while businesses in hospitality and tourism have faced huge challenges this year, many have looked to innovative and creative solutions to allow them to continue to trade and to offer something unique to their customers and this resilience is without doubt a mark of the calibre of the businesses that we have here in Donegal."
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