A young manager says his restaurant is mostly empty since lockdown ended – and glowing reviews may not be enough to save it

Restaurant owner pictured in front of his establishment. Jason Lawrence
  • The owner of the Tartan Rooster said the establishment has few customers and he doesn’t know why.
  • Jason Lawrence runs the top-rated business, which is based in Kincardine, Scotland.
  • He told Insider he’s taking it “week by week” because it could close at any moment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A 22-year-old restaurant boss has expressed frustration that his highly rated establishment is on the verge of closure, despite his best efforts to attract customers.

Jason Lawrence owns the Tartan Rooster in Kincardine, Scotland. He told Insider that despite racking up five-star reviews, the restaurant has been nearly empty on most days since May.

He often only has enough customers to fill two or three tables, at best, “and that just brings everyone down at work,” he said.

Lawrence, who started out washing dishes to make extra money while studying, said he never felt a sense of achievement like he did when he was asked to run the restaurant.

But just as he took over, things became difficult due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has never let The Tartan Rooster show its full potential. We are confident if that if COVID did not last as long, or even happen at all, then we would not be in this situation,” Lawrence said.

Tartan rooster
Empty tables at the Tartan Rooster. Jason Lawrence

Restaurants around the world are struggling under the immense pressure of the pandemic. In the US, for example, 100,000 restaurants closed six months into the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.

A persistent labor shortage across both the UK and the US has posed more challenges. In one of many recent cases, a Wisconsin pizza restaurant, which had been operating for 64 years, announced it was closing down, due to a lack of staff.

Meanwhile, Lawrence said he redecorated the restaurant to improve the overall experience for customers, including renovations to the upstairs eating area, bar, beer garden, and main restaurant. But it still wasn’t enough to lure customers back.

“I personally thought we would be fully booked and struggling to cope with all the bookings but it’s been the quite opposite,” he said.

The situation has left Lawrence with an overwhelming sense of fear for his and his seven employees’ future. “I worry that I’m not going to be able to keep a job for anyone and worry about paying my own bills,” he said.

It’s also knocked the young manager’s confidence levels, which he hopes will recover after the massive dip they have taken in the last few months.

When asked how much longer his restaurant can survive with so few customers, Lawrence said he had “no idea.”

“Ideally, I would like to get to Christmas and take it from there but that’s not guaranteed at the moment so we are taking it week by week right now,” he added.

In an effort to regain control over the situation, Lawrence said he hopes to hire more staff so he can focus on promoting and strengthening his brand’s image. “But to make it to the new year is our first goal,” he added