It has definitely been a very challenging time for the whole team and the wider hospitality industry. We have had to adapt and diversify as the pandemic has unfolded but we are very fortunate that the restaurant is big enough to lend itself to social distancing.
The summer was incredibly busy, with unprecedented demand for tables; we even hired two new full-time staff members which was great. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 cases rising rapidly in the last month, we were forced to close again and will be unable to reopen until the end of November at the earliest.
However, we are part of a very resilient industry and have an amazing team at the Lemon Tree, so I believe we will bounce back strongly from this.
It certainly has been a rollercoaster of a year for everyone but there have been many learnings. The pandemic has highlighted the need for businesses to be adaptable and responsive; to plan ahead for the unexpected, and to increase digital capabilities. The crisis has forced many businesses to start trading online and I think that has been a real positive. Whether it is selling gift cards or offering a takeaway service, digital channels offer ways to reach new customers.
Even though the first lockdown was very difficult, it was nice to enjoy the long evenings and sunshine. This time round as the evenings get darker, it’s a nice opportunity to take stock, plan ahead and think about what we can do over the coming months. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to run our Christmas menus later this year, so I am working around that at the moment.
Donegal has a truly outstanding calibre of food producers and it’s the local produce that inspires our dishes through the seasons:
I have travelled a lot over the years, enjoying food all over the world and that has really inspired me, but my biggest inspiration comes from the local food producers in Donegal. When John from Ballyholey Farm calls in to the restaurant with new season produce, it really motivates and inspires me to create new dishes and showcase Donegal Food as best I can.
To be honest, cooking for our customers in The Lemon Tree is such a privilege everyday and I cannot wait to get back to it but if I had to choose someone, I guess it would be President Michael D. Higgins.
It is wonderful to have the Food Coast Network in Donegal and receiving our plaque last week was such a positive moment, particularly in these difficult times. Having that support network around you means a lot and being able to meet new people, come together, share ideas and hear what’s going on in the Donegal Food scene is fantastic. I think it is really important for us all to work together, particularly in these challenging times, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the Donegal Food Coast Network. We have world class produce and some really talented people in this county. Donegal is a place with not only breathtaking scenery but also a world class food offering, as so many visitors to our county discovered this summer.