Despite the raft of operators choosing to introduce delivery as an alternative revenue stream through recovery, it’s not a route Loungers is going to take, CEO Nick Collins has told MCA.

Collins explained that although the coronavirus crisis prompted the business to have “a few debates” about whether delivery is something it should explore, the group felt that such a service would be at odds with the Loungers model and proposition.

“We’re very much of the view that our teams and sites are at the heart of everything we do, so delivery isn’t something that we think our customers would enjoy,” he said.

Instead, the group opted to introduce an ‘our lounge to your lounge’ click-and-collect takeaway service as a way to reignite trading whilst still encouraging customers to come to the sites and communicate with their teams.

“It’s important to think about the locations in which we operate,” Collins explained. “They’re communities, they’re quite densely populated, and we have lots of chimney pots around our sites. So, people can walk to us. They can nip out to collect a takeaway.

“We’re not in London, we’re not in travel hubs, we’re not in tourist spots, and the sites often aren’t surrounded by big offices. We’re very community based and because of that we’re well placed.”

Having already reopened 17 sites under the new format, the 150-strong operator is reopening a further ten restaurants from today (4 June).

Liverpool, Chorely, Bath and Lewes are among this next phase of openings, and Collins said this geographical spread is key to its recovery strategy.

“Where we choose to reopen is largely down to how we think takeaway will be received by those specific communities, where we think it will do well.”

“But also, the more sites we can open before we get the green light to open fully, the better, and periodically opening sites in different areas just makes life easier for our teams.”

And far from a temporary solution, he added that providing consumer reaction to its new takeaway service remains positive, the group is hoping to introduce it to “a good number of sites.”

Alongside the click-and-collect offer, Loungers is also looking to trial new measures for reopening – including order-at-table and cashless payment – to keep staff and customers as safe as possible.

“Although we’re cautious in respect to all of those sorts of things,” Collins added, “we’ve always been loath to introduce technology in between the customer and our teams.”

“But, if for a short period of time, or even for a long period of time, there are customers who prefer using technology, then that’s something we’ll have to explore.”

With these new measures and distancing layouts implemented, Collins said that the business is expecting an approximate 10% to 30% loss of capacity upon reopening, “but that probably isn’t going to influence our ability to meet demand.”

Trading seven days a week across all day parts, he explained, the business is generating revenue from 9am to 10pm, “and on lots of those occasions the Lounges aren’t full.”

“We’re confident in what we can deliver in respect to capacity and operating at a distance,” he said. But the unknown is how the consumer will react when lockdown is lifted.”

“We don’t know how long it will take them to get back to normal and we won’t know how long it will take for the fear-factor to subside until we’re back trading.”

“The big unknown in all of this is demand.”