Positivity from pubs in pandemic has been forgotten

Future hopes: Zoe Eliasson at the Boot at Sarratt hopes evening dining will become stronger at pubs once again
Future hopes: Zoe Eliasson at the Boot at Sarratt hopes evening dining will become stronger at pubs once again

Related tags Zoe Eliasson The Boot at Sarratt Social responsibility Finance Government Pubco + head office

Patterns of dining out have changed dramatically over the past four years.

We bought our pub restaurant in September 2010 and built it up from a struggling, quiet, locals’ pub to a thriving destination gastropub with a buzzing bar.

We won the Best Family Pub category in 2016 at the Great British Pub Awards​, improving business and spreading the word further about our beloved pub. After thinking things just couldn’t get any better? Hello January 2020…

A world pandemic was the last thing anybody expected. We thought outside the box and instantly started a takeaway business. There was no shadow of a doubt that we wouldn't close our doors, even for a moment.

While the sun shone down on us during that terrifying March – and our three-year-old had the time of her life spending precious moments at home with no nursery and no child care – The ‘Boot’-iful Drive Thru was born.

Positivity oozed

Not even Covid could stop us. The positivity oozed from our guests as they thanked us for giving them something to look forward to each day/week at our service window.

My days were spent promoting and collecting orders while evenings were about passing fresh food out of a window along with a bottle of locally brewed ale or a Bailey’s hot chocolate.

Finally, we were allowed to open our doors, in a manner…

We were fully booked every lunch and dinner service. While guests gathered outside, they smiled, ate and drank on their tables of six, hugging their hot water bottles.

And then the repercussions of the global crisis started coming to light. The cost of living increased enormously and people’s ‘beer’ fund was having to be converted into electricity bills and mortgage payments. The cost of raw materials, food, drinks, utilities, all rocketed and our sales plummeted.

Evening trade was struggling

We promoted a warm and cosy restaurant, turn off your heating and join us for a cup of tea, a drink, hopefully even a meal. We offered highly subsidised coffee mornings to local charities on quiet mornings, hoping to encourage vulnerable people to venture out once again.

Supermarkets jumped on the bandwagon with eating in offers and, suddenly, our evening trade was struggling.

Promotions such as £8 fish and chips nights, pie and a beer special offers, two-course meal deals are publicised but none of this will help reduce people’s cost of living.

Will utility prices drop sufficiently? Will the Government ever recognise our beloved hospitality sector needs the help and support it deserves?

The positivity we worked so hard on during Covid years seems to have been forgotten but we will continue to fight and hope that we can, one day, enjoy the buzz of evening diners and keeping our restaurant open late into the night once again... 

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