As the UK government considers the upcoming reopening of the nation’s hospitality venues on July 4th, operators and owners are getting ready to comply with new regulations. The challenge many face is to maintain a great in-venue experience that is compliant and wont clash with service.
Taking a characteristically creative approach, London-based hospitality company Inception Group is adapting working practices and spaces to create safe socialising environments. The company which operates an eclectic collection of venues, (including Mr Fogg’s, Cahoots and Bunga Bunga) will introduce temperature checks for staff, hand sanitation dispensers at key points throughout the venues, as well as rigorous cleaning routines and a one-way system for entry and exit where possible. However, in true Inception-style, these measures will be woven into the experience in imaginative and playful ways in keeping with it distinctive brand concepts.
From Victorian-dressed mannequins styled as characters from Around The World In 80 Days at Mr Fogg’s Residence, to beekeeping suits as a fun and in keeping PPE option at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, Inception is out to prove that abiding by any new rules, does not have to compromise the customer experience…
Mr Fogg’s Residence, Mayfair
To enforce safe social distancing measures at Mr Fogg’s Residence, visitors will be able to enjoy an array of characters from Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days in the form of mannequins dressed in head-to-toe Victorian attire. These new regulars will be placed throughout the venue contributing to its eclectic décor (which includes a hot air balloon and a penny farthing above the bar) and will serve to comply with social distancing measures without the removal of furniture or the loss of its typically buzzy bar atmosphere.
Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, Fitzrovia
Whether PPE is necessary for staff and/or guests in bars and restaurants is yet to be confirmed, but should it be enforced Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals has found a buzz-worthy solution. In bee-keeping with its blossoming natural surroundings, this oasis of exotic flora and fauna in Fitzrovia will provide staff and guests with beekeeping suits, or simply the protective head veil, as an additional safety precaution. These fetching light-weight veils could be the new must-have accessory to stand out from the socially distanced crowd this summer.
Famed for reviving the post-war spirit in the heart of Soho, Cahoots is planning to repurpose its residual World War II gas masks as a robust facial-covering solution. Whilst this historical headpiece would look out of place anywhere else, at Cahoots it will become another eccentric part of the immersive experience that guests have come to know and love at this unusual 1940s drinking den.
Renowned ‘80s iconic tongue-in-cheek late-night bar, Maggie’s, will transform into a Club Tropicana paradise, filled with inflatable rubber rings to aid party-goers to keep a safe distance whilst dancing. As an additional reminder, the team has stocked up on metre-long litter pickers, which will allow staff to safely pass drinks over the bar, as well as enabling guests to cheers at a suitable distance.
At Inception Group’s original venue, Barts, a speakeasy tucked away in an apartment building on Sloane Avenue, the talented team of mixologists are gearing up to resume service whilst wearing decorative theatrical masks. Dressing up at Barts has always been customary, as this one-of-a-kind bar was the first in London to feature a fancy-dress box, inviting guests to don eccentric glad rags, akin to those worn by party-goers at extravagant underground parties during the roaring ‘20s. The addition of masks will create a dual-sense of mystery and, crucially, safety, enhancing both the theatrics and protection of the cocktail presentation.
With these creative measures in places, it seems that Inception founders Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling really have thought through how to best indulge their guests without compromising on safety. Striving in the face of adversity is nothing new for the pair who launched their first venue, Barts, in Chelsea during the 2007/8 financial crisis. Although COVID-19 poses new challenges – they are looking forward to reopening and recovery, Charlie Gilkes, Co-Founder of Inception Group, says:
“The top priority for planning our reopening is adapting our ways of working and spaces to the new COVID-secure standards in order to ensure we create safe socialising and working environments in all of our venues. But, crucially for us, this must be done without forgetting, or compromising, what originally drew people into our establishments, and helped us build a loyal following. We do not want to welcome visitors back into spaces that feel sterile, devoid of personality and atmosphere because of the new measures.
Now more than ever before, people will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination, and we are determined to adapt what we were doing successfully before to the new ways of operating, whilst staying true to what we do best: creating unique and memorable experiences.
There is no escaping the fact that the new restrictions are going to pose significant challenges to the way hospitality businesses operate but we are trying our very best with what we can do. Should these playful solutions come to fruition, we will ensure they adhere to official guidelines. We are continuing to monitor the latest government guidance fastidiously, which will determine our eventual decisions on the most appropriate hygiene and safety measures for our reopening.”
With all this to look forward to … we cannot wait to delve into one of Inception’s experiences soon, the clock is ticking!