Meet the GBPA Pub Heroes finalists – Business Continuity

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vote for the pub you want to see win now
Vote for the pub you want to see win now

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Despite all the odds, hundreds of pubs continued to trade during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, with many of them not only maintaining decent sales through diversification, but also managing to serve the needs of their communities.

In this very special awards, judges for the Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes Business Continuity category gruellingly whittled down hundreds of entries to 10 finalists.

Each of those chosen demonstrated special attributes such as caring for their community, broadening their business or diversifying to not only survive, but thrive in tough circumstances.

But we are searching for one overall winner in the category, which will be done through voting, meaning you get to decided which pub deserves to take the crown.

Read the entries below and then vote by clicking here​.

The finalists are:

Pyne Arms, Barnstaple, Devon

Once Boris Johnson announced the advice to the nation not to go into pubs or restaurants we immediately lost over 80% of our bookings, this was absolutely devastating news, never before has our industry been hit so hard, so quickly.

Within 12 hours we had changed our business concept into a takeaway/delivery service, bringing the Pyne Arms to the neighbouring households, and those who felt it was unsafe to come to us. The support we received doing this was overwhelming.

Once the expected news of the country lockdown on 23 March, we shut for a week to ensure the safety of staff, customers and ourselves, gather our thoughts and we came up with a new concept of a drive-thru system and delivery.

The drive-thru is set up in our very large carpark opposite the pub, customers can pre order by message on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or phone call, or our brand new online booking system on our website, specially made for this pandemic, or you could just turn up, order, and your food bought out to you, much like the famous McDonald's.

We also had walkie talkie system in place, so once a customer had arrived in the car park, greeted by my wife, she then contacted the kitchen, food then prepared and taken to the customer.

All payments could be made via contactless, and food collected or delivered at a safe distance ensuring the safety of everyone involved. We also set up our Land Rover as a mini bar in the car park serving cartons of local ale, beers, chilled wine and a selection of gins, rum etc… you name it, if we could get hold of it, you could have it!

Being a husband and wife team, and with a young family (children age five and two), doing this was extremely difficult and challenging, but was the only way we could stay afloat. Our takeaway and delivery service was available Friday and Saturday evenings and a Sunday roast, often doing around 80 to 120 covers each service.

Customers could also order essentials with their food order: we baked fresh bread, had milk, flour, yeast, readily available. We also worked closely with our suppliers, who we could get veg boxes and deliver them to local residents. Being a very rural country pub, locals became dependent on our services, we also supplied our local shop/petrol station with essentials that they could no longer get. A lot of our local community are classed as vulnerable, so our main aim was to look after them and do all we could for them. 

We were recognised by our local council as being a local hero, and they did a piece on us on their social media. We just wanted to do all we could to help, even if it wasn't what we were used to. We had to change and adapt to keep the business alive, if we didn't we would be up and running today.

VOTE

The Burston Crown, Burston, Norfolk

The 17 March 2020, the day Boris Johnson suggested pubs were ‘no go zones’, could have been seismic for our Norfolk country pub. But, despite our own fears, we focused on two strategies. How could we help those who were struggling or being quickly cut off in our rural community and secondly, saving our business?

The idea to turn our pub into a community shop and for us to provide a takeaway and delivery service. Our shop started with the basics – tins, dairy, soft drinks, tea, coffee, staples such as pasta and rice and even highly prized toilet rolls.

As demand grew, we brought in new suppliers. Our fantastic network meant we sourced products unavailable in the supermarkets such as yeast and flour.

For those less inclined to become master bakers we partnered with a local baker and we prided ourselves on offering a wide selection of fresh vegetables, beverages such as cappuccinos and lattes and of course, being a hostelry, wonderful beer from local micro-breweries. We varied our service depended upon need.

For those wanting to visit our shop they experienced a friendly and safe environment from ordering to collection. For those more vulnerable we delivered to their door.

Again, personal safety at the forefront of our service. Every week we delivered meals to the elderly, those shielding or isolating and two families with Covid 19.

Mother’s Day for many meant being distant from those they love. We delivered roast dinners to mothers and grandmothers from children and grandchildren parted by this indiscriminate virus.

At Easter, were seen hopping around the village as a giant rabbit gifting Easter eggs and bringing goodwill to those in need  Each Thursday became a theme night including pizza, street food and curry. These were very popular! Creating a limerick each week to build connection with our customers.

Very early into lockdown one of our lovely villagers started making face masks and generously donated them to our community shop.

This allowed us to raise funds for a cause dear to our heart – Nature and Nurture Therapeutic Services.

Nature and Nurture provide much needed mental health support for young adults and children and we know from personal experience have prevented suicides.

Each year we celebrate this worthy cause with a Beers Bikes and Bands event.

Raising thousands to help them provide support. Last year we raised £10,501.

This year, sadly the event planned for August has been cancelled and our energies are channelled into other forms of fundraising. Our face masks alone have raised nearly £700!

Within all communities there are those who need more help. We could see this struggle firsthand – our community food bank emerged. Helped by very generous people in our village it grew and grew to the point our surplus was redistributed to the food bank.

For us, the lockdown experience has been the most rewarding experience we’ve ever had. The support we’ve had from our community has been unprecedented.

Our hearts are full.

VOTE

The Globe, Newbury

At the end of March, we had a decision to make – sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, or try to do something different to save our business. So, we did what we do best and looked to achieve the three things that have always governed our business’ direction: 

  1. Innovate: We have been open every weekend since lockdown, serving takeaway drinks and snacks from the front of our pub, what we now call our “tuck shop”.
    We are fortunate enough to have an off-licence licence, allowing us to continue serving booze to our wonderful community.
    As one of the few places open in town during the height of lockdown, we sought to provide some sense of normality to those going out for essential shopping or their daily exercise.
    As the weather got better, we saw an opportunity to invest in a slushie machine. People thought we are bonkers, but we’ve found it was something Newbury didn’t know they needed until we got it.
    We try to always be inclusive, so we’ve kept them alcohol-free to cater to children and adults who don’t/can’t drink, but with the option of adding booze if you want.
    A few weeks ago, we reached a crazy milestone, so we gave away our 1,000th slushie for free.
  2. Collaborate: We thought - we have this amazing kitchen that’s not being used, what can we do to bring something new to town but also help out other foodies?
    We saw there was a gap for a proper burger, so we chatted with two local businesses who had lost most of their income overnight.
    Literally two days later we opened a burger pop-up, sourcing our meat from a local, family-run farm shop.
    We named one of the burgers “Captain Tom”, after the inspiring Sir Tom Moore, and we donated 10% of the sales to charity.
    Although we knew the burgers were only temporary, the six weeks we did them were incredible.
    The good news – we filled the gap for the two businesses we chose to work with until they were able to reopen.
    After the burgers, we saw another chance to support another business – a small, social enterprise that lost most of their revenue overnight as street markets and corporate gigs were cancelled.
    We’ve been working with them for the last month selling their mezze boxes while they gear up to get back to the markets. We’ve always been big believers in #collaborationovercompetition and lockdown was no different.

3. Give Back: We wanted to prove that “not everything is $h!t right now”, so we decided to make a t-shirt based on all the funny and positive things that came out of lockdown.
We commissioned a local tattoo artist (whose income stopped) to draw it, a local screen-printing business (who lost loads of contracts) to make the them, and local charity (who needed funding) to benefit from the sales. To date, we’ve raised over £1,000 just from selling the t-shirts.

VOTE

The Grundisburgh Dog, Grundisburgh, Suffolk

After we had to close our doors we wanted to stay connected to and help our community and keep our business running so we started to sell bespoke vegetable boxes which were collected (contact-free) from the pub.

At the same time we offered takeaway food to be cooked at home or frozen for later use. To this we added three takeaway nights, pizzas on Wednesdays and Saturdays and burgers on Fridays. All home made by us.

We then set up an outdoor contactless honesty stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables at the front of the pub. As the weather warmed up we cleared our restaurant and brought the stall inside but it still remained contactless with an honesty box and a card machine for payments.

We were always on hand to help if people needed a hand. We started to sell lots more than just fruit and veg… we had the advantage of being able to buy in bulk so we bought lots of types of flour, sugar and yeast which we bagged up ourselves.

We also sold coffee beans, pasta, sauces, and cheese - so much cheese! We soon realised that between the two of us we were making more profit than we do normally (with reduced rates and no staff wage bill).

The shop was becoming more of a delicatessen so we decided to go with it and with the money we made from our takeaway and veg sales we were able to buy a new refrigerator, shelving and all the stock to start a proper delicatessen.

The idea being that once we reopened the restaurant would become a 'dine-in deli' and our food menu would include a lot of the items sold in the deli (charcuterie, cheese, smoked salmon etc).

We have branded the delicatessen and have given it its own logo. We now have an increase of new customers in the region of 40%. We have also kept the pub alive by selling takeaway draught beer.

We used a local brewer who had said that he trade was down by 70% and we sold around 4-5 casks a week.

For Father's day I sold cheese hampers and offered free delivery to the local community. Our thoughts were that whilst no one could travel it would be a good way to send a unique present and support the pub at the same time. We had one lady call from L.A. to buy a hamper for her father who lives in the village. He was thrilled. We have had grateful customers send us flowers, plants and cards to say thank you.

One lady brought in some hand cream because of the hand washing we were having to do!

We have been humbled by the support our community has shown us and immensely proud of how we handled the situation.

We didn't just tread water but we actively diversified and essentially set up a whole new successful business which our MP is officially opening at the end of August!

VOTE

The Keel Row, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland

I wish to nominate my mother (landlady of the pub) and her team for their tireless work in supporting our local community since lock-down began.

Before pubs were forced to close, we launched a free delivery service for those who were apprehensive about visiting busy public places or had underlying health conditions.

When pubs were forced to close the Keel Row fully launched their takeaway/delivery service and it was important that there were no additional charges for delivery and prices for home-cooked dishes were reduced to ensure all of the community were able to access the service.

A team of volunteers worked each day to serve the community home-cooked food at affordable prices (the pub never formally ‘closed’). Meals were delivered daily to local care homes and sheltered accommodation. 

The Keel Row also launched an ‘afternoon tea’ service which was successful, delivering in excess 70-80 afternoon teas daily.

The teas were a perfect way to celebrate special occasions safely at home and free balloons were included with orders for special occasions – a real personal touch.

For Easter, Sharon and the team visited nearby estates within our village with a Peter Rabbit mascot purchased by the pub.

The team visited estates within our village to see all of the children/families waving from their windows. Peter Rabbit then left some free treats at the doors of each household. The little event helped spread some much-needed happiness during a difficult time.

A special VE day afternoon tea was launched to help our community celebrate this special day at home. The pub delivered 400 individual teas that day and there are some really special moments of this day; e.g. delivering to war veterans within the community.

The Keel Row donated/received donations for the ‘Keel Row Food Bank’ which was set up to deliver food to those in hardship during lock-down.

The Keel Row organised a social media appeal in response to the local cat and dog shelter running short of supplies. An amazing response from the community resulted in a large number of pet food, blankets and toys donated.

A local farm approached us to ask for any donations of fruit and veg due to not being able to open to families and receiving no government support. The Keel Row paid for and donated a large amount of fruit and veg to the farm alongside an amazing response from our local community who brought vans filled of fruit and veg for the farm.

All of the pub lights were turned ‘BLUE’ during in support of our frontline workers. Cars tooted as they went passed seeing all of the blue lights!

“At the end of the storm, there is always a rainbow” – thank you to our valued friends and loyal customers for their support, we couldn’t have done it without you!

VOTE

The Nook Cocktail Bar, Weymouth

We are a popular Cocktail Bar in Weymouth, Dorset (we also have a huge selection of beers, spirits and wines).

Within one week of enforced closure, and a few days of feeling very sorry for ourselves and believing that we would probably go under, after eight years of operating… we managed to launch a Cocktail Home delivery service for our freshly made cocktails.

We purchased 1,000 bottles online and had bespoke labels made and within one week we had sold all the bottles! To date, we have sold over 40,000 cocktails via this system. We have been so supported by the local community and have had our regulars ordering from us from the get-go.

Our bartenders became delivery drivers, our mums and dads helped label all our bottles and we just went for it!

We weren’t going to be beaten and our amazing customers were determined to help!

The operation was simple. Customers would call us or message us via our Facebook page and place an order for cocktails (and we also served pizza and sides), and then our small, socially distanced team on the bar would make the cocktails to order. In exactly the same way that we would if we were open – using the freshest ingredients and premium spirits, and once the cocktail had been shaken we would bottle it, bag it up with a thankyou on the bag and then get it delivered with ice.

After initially launching our cocktail delivery service, we had a massive surge of social media activity the highlight of which was a viral post where we had one of banners placed next to a Marks and Spencer’s advertising banner on the seafront. The Marks and Spencer’s banner read “We’re still open!” and our banner which was next to theirs on Weymouth Seafront read “We’re still open too… not just any cocktails… Nook Home Delivered Cocktails!”

The response was incredible and we had an article written about us in the local paper The Dorset Echo.

When we started operating our home delivery service we made sure that we did twice weekly homemade Pizza delivery drop to our local Ambulance Station to do our but to support the NHS – especially as we were being so well supported ourselves. As soon as lockdown eased and people could venture out a bit more… we continued with our home delivery service but we also added in a ‘cocktails to go window’ service.

Our customers could place an order in Advance and collect or just turn up at our window and we would make the cocktails whilst they safely waited.

It was a huge success, and as we are located directly opposite the beach it was lovely to see customers grabbing a ‘cocktail to go’ from us and then enjoying a socially distanced catch up with a friend on the beach.

We have been truly humbled by the support we have received and so grateful we are now back open for business.

VOTE

The Chestnut Horse, Winchester

After receiving the government grant I decided to put this to good use and buy everything needed to set up a takeaway service, to run alongside my community shop, thinking I would provide the vulnerable within my community with a service of hot meals.

I would receive telephone orders from families who were unable to see their loved ones and delivery food to them, one daughter that lives in Cornwall was so worried about her mum being depressed that on several occasions I would surprise her with afternoon teas, cream teas, a fresh fruit and veg box and nearly every Sunday she was delivered a roast dinner.

I also continued sourcing real ale that could be purchased as a takeaway. This service soon grew and we were delivering much further afield than our local community. For people that weren't shielding we offered collection time slots that are still popular.

I received a wonderful postcard which was sent anonymously that made my heart soar. I was nominated for the radio Suffolk award of going above and beyond during coronavirus which I was presented with on air and now proudly have this hanging in the pub. I am so glad that I decided to adapt my business because I am sure if I hadn't my beautiful community pub might have had to cease trading. This also meant that on re opening I could restock with "pub stuff" beer etc without getting into debt

VOTE

The Mill Stokesley, Teesside

The Mill is Stokesley’s only community pub, and is so important to local life. With no government grant, I furloughed my 30 staff and worked 20-hour days to deliver The Mill’s services throughout lockdown and ensure its survival. As a result, trade returned to 2019 levels (£25,000 a week turnover) on reopening, and The Mill is debt-free and secured for the community for the future. I am now building up financial reserves in case of further disruptions. The response from customers and residents has been phenomenal: their gratitude is overwhelming and humbling.

Lockdown services:

Food: For the first fortnight I carried out ‘meals on wheels’ for the vulnerable and those struggling to get food so they could fill their freezers, delivering 1,000 frozen portions of The Mill’s most popular dishes. Food was delivered to people’s doors by the pub’s branded car.

In the early weeks no other venue in Stokesley was doing takeaways or deliveries. I partnered with Just Eat and from the start of lockdown, operating four days a week and offering, fish & chips on Thursdays, steaks on Fridays, chicken parmo on Saturdays and roasts on Sundays. I fed 500 people a week; users were typically shielding or needed a cheering treat. On Mother’s Day I served 250. By May, other venues were back in business, so I launched something new in Stokesley – rotisserie chicken with all the sides. People loved having something different; weekly sales climbed from £3,600 to £6,200 at the end of lockdown. I’ve now added Pollo Rotisserie to The Mill’s menu and opened a rotisserie restaurant.

Community hub: With the pub closed, it was hard for everyone, but particularly the elderly and those lacking outdoor space to socialize. Many felt isolated. To recreate the meeting place that The Mill provides, I built a community garden on disused pub land with the help of labour, materials and donations from customers, residents and local businesses. During construction, it kept The Mill’s spirit alive and regulars would come and chat there, socially distanced, while I worked. The garden opened on 25th April. The local school used it for nature lessons, and I am constantly told it was a lifeline for lots of people.

The Mill clothing: Due to demand, I sell the staff’s clothing range to customers. I recreated the design during lockdown, adding a message of thanks to the NHS. It captured customers’ mood, and sales increased 20%. Promoted via Facebook, customers paid online and collected from the pub.

Good cheer: The Mill’s focus is making people happy. I felt that was more important than ever in lockdown. I therefore invested the food profits into an internal and external refurbishment during closure so that regulars could look forward to something upbeat. I posted sneak peeks of the changes. Customers loved the positive news and the animal statues we have showcased, all of which are for sale, pleasing customers.

VOTE

The Anchor Inn, Wingham

So there were seven of us, Myself, Michelle (my wife) Beth and her Boyfriend and my youngest son Robbie, his mate Owen (whose father works away a lot), and Robbies girlfriend Emma, all locked down together. As the news trickled through that we would be able to offer a Takeaway service we immediately put together a simplified menu, we had arranged to furlough most of our staff, but decided to keep one Chef working.

Our offer was 5-9pm Monday to Saturday with all dishes priced at £10 or under. We were offering meals with potatoes, veg and gravy, not just chips and It was a great opportunity to clear our cellar before the Ales went out of date.

We put out an appeal for 2ltr plastic milk containers and were inundated. Wingham is a fairly rural area and there are a lot of elderly people living in remote locations in outlying villages.

We delivered flyers to all the local houses and advertised on Facebook etc but made a point of asking people to print off a menu and pass it to an elderly or vulnerable friend or neighbour. We also printed this on the bottom of our menus and put one in with every meal we delivered or that customers collected. It seemed to work!

I think we did around 10 meals on our first night, but soon it was 20, then 30 then 50!

Many of the meals were being delivered by myself and Emma, Michelle was taking the orders during the day and co-ordinating the collections and deliveries, Robbie was in the Kitchen whilst Beth and Sam helped out making up fish and chip boxes and driving when we became overwhelmed with deliveries.

Collecting customers were picking up for people that lived near to them and local people were gifting meals to people they were concerned about. People were sending beer to each other, it was amazing.

The level of activity at The Anchor during Takeaway hours was frantic, so frantic in fact the Police turned up on our third night with six officers and a riot van, someone had reported we were open and having a massive party.

They had a quick look around, apologised and went on their way. There were a few pubs that offered Takeaway at the start but I think only one other continued, most packed it up within a couple of weeks. The Plaudits we got as a result were amazing.

The local Village Facebook was alive with comments thanking us and showing pictures of their meals. The demand for the service grew and continued right up until we re-opened.

It really kept us going, both as a motivator as well as financially. In a strange way, this pandemic has been a positive experience for us, we’ve gained lots of new customers and I think people have realised how important Pub culture is for the community and how much the local pub matters. Going forward we emerge stronger.

VOTE

The Grove Tavern, Tunbridge Wells

I am no pub hero; I only help the person who is: my Dad – Steve Baxter. He has run the pub for nearly 19 years, and he has gained an enormous amount of respect from all of his customers. He is the sort of man that puts everyone before himself, and while lockdown was a difficult time for everyone, my Dad used lockdown as a business booster and a way of supporting our local tradesmen.

When lockdown first came into effect, we of course followed every guideline issued and our pub closed with no re-opening date in place. We were unsure of what the future held for us as a family run business, but my Dad, ever the idea man, flourished in this unprecedented scenario. He took it upon himself to open up a takeaway hatch, and we were lucky enough to have a service window within our kitchen that opened up onto pub property, so we opened a takeaway service, something that we have never been involved with before and it took off like a house on fire!

For weeks, my Dad sat in a small, cramped kitchen in clear view of the open takeaway hatch to serve anyone that needed a little pick-me-up, whether they were loyal customers or passer-by’s that stumbled on the hidden gem, my Dad made them feel welcome and engaged them in polite conversation and witty remarks in the hope that he was helping them in some way. This system worked for a few weeks, but eventually we needed to improve and get out of the kitchen, so we installed a doorbell right beside the takeaway hatch which allowed us all to do various bits and pieces within and around the pub.

It's here that Dad started to talk with our local tradesmen that often frequented the Grove Tavern to update and improve the overall appearance of the pub itself. We had painters and decorators in to spruce up the outside of the building, we had a builder in to re-do the cobblestone section in front of the hatch window to insure a nice, level piece of ground for our takeaway punters to enjoy and for the first time in 19 years, we were able to re-do the cellar floor and walls with special paint due to the lack of barrels being delivered. By the time we could re-open came around, we were presenting a brand new and improved pub!

One that survived the lockdown period due to the constant support from our friends and customers. The only thing left to say is well done Dad, once again you have gone above and beyond to support the community that our little pubs sits within. I remember asking my dad the simple question of 'why?' and his response was one for the books, he said that he wanted to show gratitude to his customers that have supported him for years, this was his way of giving something back to the community...and he did well.

VOTE

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