THE OWNERS of The Gate have transformed the popular Llanfrechfa restaurant into a food hall while closed due to the pandemic.

Gareth and Heather Lee made the decision after seeing the difficulties the restaurant industry was facing, and predicting a change in people’s eating habits after the pandemic.

The restaurant has now been converted into a food hall, which includes a butchers, fish counter and bakery, and - after given the green light by the Welsh Government - will still serve food, including from its new pizza station.

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Adriano Raucci at the pizza station at The Gate in Llanfrechfa

“During this crisis, after being in the game 30 years, I thought people are getting more into cooking at home,” said Mr Lee. “I think seeing people going out two or three times a week will stop.

“The restaurant industry will never be the same. I think we will see a lot of restaurants close down.

“I think when the Welsh Government first allows people out, people will go out, but after a while that will die down.

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Edvige Alessa on the Gelato station at The Gate

“A lot of my customers are coming in and saying they didn’t used to cook, but now they are doing more and trying new things.”

Mr Lee said they made the decision to convert the restaurant to a food hall after seeing the demand for selling meal packs as a result of the enforced closure.

“The Friday we closed down we had so much stock left, so we came up with the idea of selling cooking at home packs,” said Mr Lee. “For example, we did a pack with two sirloin steaks, sauce, and two desserts.

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A range of fresh fish and frogs legs available at The Gate

“It was just two of us outside with a table with our meal packs on. Someone asked us if we were selling bottles of milk. We weren’t, but we had some left over, so we started selling that.

“It moved on to also selling bread. Within a few weeks, we started adding more packs. It just grew and grew and grew.

“We decided two weeks ago to convert the whole restaurant into a deli. We need to thank Jordan Vers, from Vers Homes, who did everything we needed.

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The Gate in Llanfrechfa

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The wine selection available at The Gate

“At midnight [on Thursday] we all went home and it was ready for opening.

“We are going to carry on the meal packs. We can even expand that into things like Paella kits, or if people want to try different things, we have snails, frogs legs or octopus.

“We still have a restaurant where we can serve 40 people.

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A range of fresh meat available at The Gate

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The Gate's wide variety of options in the pantry

“We have gone from being a busy restaurant - serving 2,000 to 2,500 customers a week - to having two businesses, a restaurant and the food hall.

“We still have the quality of food we were selling as a restaurant, but people can now enjoy cooking it at home. It’s a bit of a game changer.”

“It’s a learning curve, this is all new to us,” said Mrs Lee. “But it’s exciting. We are loving it. “We can’t wait for our restaurant to be able to open so we can welcome back our customers, but until then we are still able to see them here.”

The pair emphasised the importance of shopping locally now more than ever.

“The smaller [restaurants] are not going to survive unless they are supported by their local community,” said Mr Lee.

“I think this has brought communities closer together,” said Mrs Lee. “The is more of a focus on supporting local suppliers. I hope it continues.”