Operators across the UK saw their communities struggling to source necessities and stepped up to the challenge, ensuring their locals were able to get fresh milk and eggs despite the empty supermarket shelves.
The Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes 2020 has been organised by the Morning Advertiser to recognise those operators that did an amazing job.
Entries to the Pub Shop category, sponsored by Booker, were extensive and judges were given the difficult task of picking out a shortlist from a strong field of superb operators for the public vote.
The six shortlisted are:
Dylan’s The Plough, St Albans
After ending 2019 with a very successful and busy Christmas, it was a huge crash down to earth when the pubs closed in March.
But we are not a group that can be quiet for long and as soon as the shutdown was enforced, we began making plans for our next venture – Dylans At Home.
We took over The Plough in 2017, completely renovating in 2018. Unfortunately, in 2019, we suffered a devastating fire that took out our entire brand-new kitchen and store cupboards, putting us out of action (for a while).
The reason I mention this is that as devastating as the fire was, what it did show us was that the community around us was incredible – the support from our locals and neighbours got us through that terrible time and gave us the energy to start rebuilding all over again. When the lockdown happened, we saw this as a great opportunity to give something back to our community and create a shop service for them.
Our aim with the shop was to provide a quality offering to our locals who were unable to go to the shops due to shielding, self-isolating or who couldn’t get a delivery slot from their normal supermarket. Our lockdown brand, Dylans At Home, was coming to life!
We used our local suppliers to source fresh fruit and veg, meat, bread, cakes, dry store goods such as pasta, coffee and of course, take away drinks. We set up a community WhatsApp group and posted cook along videos via social media – with one video getting 12k views! We set up an order form online and delivered throughout the week, to Sleapshyde, St Albans, Harpenden, Hatfield and beyond.
Feedback from the community was amazing and we kept hearing from people that they were really missing our food, so we decided to diversify and create cook along boxes. Our head chef, Drew Knight, created YouTube videos of cook alongs with him, plus a playlist of his cook along tunes! We packaged up all the ingredients for an amazing cook along curry, shoulder of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, plus many more and included these as part of the home delivery service.
We also created a Dylan’s cheese board that could be ordered via the shop and did Zoom tastings for people that wanted to know more about the cheese and wine.
With our Save St Albans pub campaign, originally put together to fight the business rate increase, we launched our Stick One In campaign to encourage locals to buy a voucher to support their local businesses. Local breweries brewed our very own ‘Stick One In’ beer and this was sold via our pubs and the other community pubs in St Albans.
It was a busy time and we loved every minute of supporting our local community!
The Kingshead Cacklebury, Hailsham, Sussex
When the pub was forced to close for lock-down, we were keen to help our local community in as many ways as we could.
The scenes in our local town echoed those on the news of long queues outside supermarkets followed by rows and rows of empty shelves once inside.
We liaised with our local wholesalers, who had surplus stock due to the hospitality trade suddenly closing down, and ordered fresh supplies to sell from the pub to fill the gap between demand and the lack of stock in our local supermarkets. We heard about a new free website - ‘MyPubShop’, created by StarStock - a click and collect initiative enabling pubs, local shops & stores to sell essential food and drink to their local community. We signed up & the guys at StarStock couldn’t have been more helpful.
We kept a close eye on supply and demand in the local supermarkets to try to anticipate what to stock in our shop; starting with fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy produce and quickly adding other staples like flour, which we bought in 16kg bags and re-bagged into smaller quantities for resale.
We were able to take orders through the online store, over the telephone, by email and through social media. Payments were processed through the website or over the phone and collections were by appointment with minimal contact, to keep everyone safe.
Our pub Food Hub was a profit-making arm extension of the pub, but it also operated closely with Hailsham Crisis Support, as I was jointly coordinating the volunteer network set up in our town to help the more vulnerable in our community with their shopping.
When supplies were in short demand in the shops, I was able to order some items from our wholesalers. I also offered the use of the pub’s card machine to process payments for shopping carried out by the Hailsham Crisis Support volunteers, so we could also shop for those stuck at home with no access to cash.
As a consequence while chatting to and getting to know some of our regulars using Hailsham Crisis Support’s services, we were also able to introduce our home-made range to a wider audience.
We now sell our home-made pies, sausages, burgers & quiches to people who would probably never have visited the pub and would therefore not have known about our food. We have also built up a great reputation and rapport with more local residents and members of our local authorities. Since reopening we continue to run our online shop alongside our usual trading as some customers prefer to shop with us instead of going to the supermarket, for the minimal contact system we use as well as the quality of the food supplied by our wholesalers. And our sales of home-made produce are also still going strong.
Tuddenham Lodge, Dereham, Norfolk
We turned an existing little shop on the side of our pub (which sold local crafts/artwork) into a full grocery store overnight. The shop had been open only 12 months with a grant from Pub Is The Hub but hadn't worked selling groceries. Our pre covid sales were at the best £35 p/w hence wastage was a higher figure than sales! Turnover overnight went to £8k plus p/w.
We had furloughed all staff so this was husband, wife and volunteer help from daughter. We created a contactless shopping process and were boxing up 60/70 orders per day & placing direct into peoples vehicles after taking phone payment and arranging collection time.
We introduced a range of 'easy teas' pre cooked 'lodge' meals for reheat at home at an affordable price from just £3.50. We baked pies, sausage rolls and homemade bread, desserts and homemade bread pudding. We did hot takeaways.
We hit social media hard and did weekly 'live shopping videos' so that our customers could sit at home with a pen and paper and write their shopping lists knowing exactly what was on the shelves and in the fridges and freezers. The videos became such a hit customers would all comment that during the initial lockdown these became a family event!! all watching our 'lives' to do the weekly shop as a family!
People collecting their grocery boxes commented they couldn't wait to get home and unpack all the goodies!
We managed to keep up with all 'shortages' during the stockpiling days.
We sold toilet rolls by the thousands - we bought in large multi packs and bagged in pairs.
We bagged flour all day long from 25kg sacks - 120 kg a day!
We bagged pasta - 50kg a day!
We bagged dried yeast.
We had 2 pallets of fruit and veg being delivered daily.
We had a butchers delivery daily.
Items the customer put on their shopping lists we worked very hard to source and fulfil, when customers were too scared to go to the supermarket, when they couldn't get online shopping they could email their order to me and we completed them, same day or next day!
We teamed up with a volunteer organisation called 'Dereham cares' through Breckland council so that shielding customers could have their boxes collected and delivered for them. Our shop was also open for customers to come to and they felt safe as we insisted from day one that only one person at a time could enter the shop so they felt safe knowing they were not at risk, we wore face shields from the beginning.
Fridges went down on us through constant use and we begged and borrowed fridges in order to keep going! We have now purchased a couple of new replacements but still need to replace more so winning would help!
The Wiremill, Lingfield, Surrey
As the Government kicked off COBRA meetings to tackle the pandemic, we started project PYTHON. The entire objective was to create a sustainable business that could afford to pay our 88 staff. Nothing was going to replace the income of the four pubs, but nothing is as important to us as our people.
The challenge looked hopeless. For three days we developed new business plans, strategies, cashflow forecasts and landed on one solution - to turn The Wiremill into a click & collect shop. The supermarkets were crumbling, the networks imploding, toilet rolls & shelves being stripped, but we owed our supply chain hundreds of thousands of pounds.
On March 18 I began to build the ‘shop’. I took an online fish and chip delivery platform, got under the skin of it and began to customise it to sell eggs, milk, flour and over 100 additional items.
Anthony was making calls to our suppliers. We told them all we couldn’t pay them, but we needed their help. We would pay every penny we owed, even if it meant selling everything we owned. From butchers to bakers to candle stick markers we had a resounding “go for it, we trust you guys”.
On March 21 the day after Boris closed us, the Wiremill click & collect shop opened for business. We began to shout about it on every social media platform we could, with one purpose, to inspire others in the industry to do the same. “Call us, email us, come and see us, we will tell you everything, help you in every way we can”.
Our team were now protected on furlough, but we had a commitment to our suppliers and none of us knew how long this ‘lockdown’ was going to last. Calls flooded in; from major brand owners looking to create platforms for individual pub operators to multi-site groups looking to copy what we were doing.
In the first week we saw over 300 collections. We opened on a Tuesday and Thursday with collections from 4pm. We packed the boxes in the mornings following the deliveries, customers would drive down the lane, turn their car around, back up into one of our three collection bays with the boot lifted, we would load the car and they would drive away. It worked like a dream.
At the same time we created #StaySafe a mission to help feed the isolated, elderly and vulnerable in our community. Within a day we had raised over £800 and we began to create gastro ready meals & food boxes for the most in need.
Three weeks in we were offering burger take away, fish and chip shop on a Friday, BBQ packs, over 30 gastro to go ready meals and the shop had grown to over 200 items, we stripped stock from all Yummy pubs and drove it to the Mill.
On 29th June 2020 we made our final payment to our suppliers. When we opened on July 4 we didn’t owe a penny.
The Caradon Inn, Liskeard, Cornwall
When we re-opened the pub, a common theme of bar chit-chat was: ‘Perhaps we can get our village shop back next.’
It was a plaintive cry from those in a small rural parish where life had stood still; overtaken by the bustle of nearby towns and supermarkets.
But we had enough on our plate. The pub had been neglected for far too long and the ‘To Do’ list was growing by the day.
Within 12 months, however, we had breathed life into the former mining hinterland. Then Covid-19 struck.
Shutting the doors, we were left reflecting on whether our endeavour and investment had been in vain.
But standing still is not in our DNA. If the village wanted its shop back, then why not?
A host of ’phone calls later and the bar resembled Arkwright’s shop in the sitcom Open All Hours.
But it didn’t end there. While toilet rolls and flour were flying off the bar, I went back to the kitchen, turning my hand to baking.
And once pasties, quiches and turnovers were in the oven, I swapped my chef’s whites for overalls and created a mini garden centre, adding hanging baskets, plants and vegetable seedlings to the menu.
In the space of a few months, The Caradon Inn had become as loved for its ‘shops within a shop’ as for its steak and ale cobblers and Sunday roasts.
We listened to what our regulars wanted and delivered. Like the fictional Topsy, our range of stock grew. And grew.
Who’d have thought that garden compost would become the new toilet paper on shoppers’ lists? But we had to ship in pallets of the stuff from Scotland to keep up with demand.
Most of our other staples, like milk, honey, cheese and milk, were sourced locally.
We added a utility bill payment facility, and also delivered to those shielding.
We’re currently looking at a prescription collection service and a newspaper rack. We’re already converting the old breakfast room into a fully functional shop and have also taken over a piece of waste ground for a long-term nursery with a state-of-the-art poly tunnel.
It’s hard work but seeing the smiles on the faces of our largely elderly population has been so rewarding.
Hopefully, we’re coming out of lockdown but whatever changes lie ahead, we are determined to keep the shop going for as long as it’s supported.
Essential building works on the historic pub – it dates from the time copper and tin mining workers sought refreshment after sending their spoils on the railway to Liskeard and on to Looe for export by sea – have delayed the re-opening.
The property, neglected for years, needs a new roof and the chimneys, deemed unstable on public safety grounds, have to be replaced.
But even when we are able to throw open the doors once again, the village will still have a shop.
And a bakery. And a garden centre. And, of course, a pub…
Spread Eagle, Bromley Cross, Bolton
Following the announcement of lockdown, we knew as a pub in the heart of the community we couldn’t just shut the doors.
We knew there was a large number of people in the community already shielding and could see ourselves the large queues outside the villages only 2 shops each day. We also had suppliers who suddenly found themselves with no customers also.
We quickly decided to open up as a community shop and, using our suppliers, sourced daily fresh fruit and veg, dairy produce, butcher meats etc. This escalated very quickly. Not only did we have queues of people visiting us, we also set up a free delivery service where we delivered to those shielding in the village. This was a 7 day a week operation.
With Mother’s Day and Easter weekends being during lockdown, we had a number of people booked for Sunday lunches. We quickly contacted them to ensure they weren’t disappointed and arranged for the meals booked to be delivered - along with a little gift from ourselves.
This expanded to a 7 day a week hot food delivery service with particular focus on Sunday lunches and fish and chips Friday - some weeks doing over 100 covers for each. The majority of this was those shielding.
As lockdown went on we realised how fed up people were and also the amount of people who couldn’t visit their relatives and wanted to show them they were thinking of them.
We set up an afternoon tea delivery service where customers could pay for a full afternoon tea delivered to a shielding relative - even down to the clotted cream and English the bag - and some adding a prosecco touch! This expanded to cheese and wine boards also.
As lockdown drew to a close it was also the same time as school children should have been experiencing their last day at high school and their proms. We were approached by some parents if there was anything we could do to help out disappointed kids. We quickly put together a ballon bouquet and sweet box that we were then inundated with orders to deliver around the village.
It should be noted that all these initiatives were run on a not for profit basis with people
Volunteering their services to work on the shop and as a pub we picked up the costs of hiring a van for deliveries etc.
A typical day would start with a trip to the wholesale market at 3am and finish with collating orders for the next day at 10pm.
It was however a service very much appreciated by the community as the emails, letters and cards we received showed.
Lockdown really brought out the community spirit where we are and as a pub we were proud to pay our part. All produce left at the end of the week was donated to local care homes.
To vote for your winner, click here.