To increase trade during the first lockdown we launched our 'Pub in a Box' delivery service.
We also developed PromptPints.com, our own “order at table” web service to create a Covid-safe and contactless customer experience, which we launched this in time for the re-opening in July 2020 and then adapted it to allow home orders when we went into the second lockdown.
While these efforts led to our turnover during the first two lockdowns being around 15% of the previous year, unfortunately the current restrictions around selling takeaway alcohol meant that Dry January was drier than usual, and our turnover dropped to below 5%.
It has been the most challenging month of the pandemic so far.
‘How’ as important as ‘when’
Like most hospitality businesses, the Government lockdown grants and furlough scheme are very welcome, but don’t reach far enough to cover a near 100% drop in turnover.
Our landlord, Gray & Sons (Chelmsford) Ltd, has been great in terms of assistance and rent relief, and I have streamlined the business as much as possible, but the current lockdown is having a more significant impact than the previous ones.
The lack of certainty surrounding the plans to come out of lockdown is concerning.
I fully understand the need for the restrictions and I certainly do not want to come out of lockdown too early but knowing how we can re-open is as important as when we can re-open.
Some of the safest places to visit
As an industry, we are also looking for clarity over the ongoing financial support that the hospitality sector may receive after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The business rates relief and the 5% VAT rate have been a shot in the arm, but we need to know if these are to continue or not, and we need to find out now rather than in March’s budget.
From a hospitality point-of-view, one silver-lining of the pandemic has been that it has given the wider economy time to adapt to the effects of Brexit. Any impact of the latter has been relatively small so far, possibly because we are barely trading.
Some of our usual marketing products are not being shipped to the UK for the foreseeable future due to the increase in courier costs. Hopefully these issues will be resolved by the time we can open our doors again, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that supplies of any other goods to us, or to the UK’s breweries, are able to continue unhampered.
The pandemic has all but wiped-out trade for January, but there are signs of hope ahead.
The vaccine programme is going well and the way that the pub industry has adapted to make their premises Covid-safe has been remarkable.
With modifications, pubs can be some of the safest places to visit, and I expect customers will come back in their droves as soon as we can safely open the doors. We can’t wait to welcome them.