In the first instance, the people at the coal face – our front of house teams, chefs, housekeepers and tradesmen who keep the wheels turning on an adhoc basis. All were adaptable, willing and eager to see the business survive, get it open again and stay open.
They were flexible, did roles and jobs they wouldn’t normally be asked to do, took changes to their schedules in their stride and without demur. Tradesmen working all hours as things broke having been restarted. This didn’t change once we were underway.
In the second instance, the people who visit whether it be each day, week or every now and then – our customers. How they rooted for us in the early months of lockdown, how they returned and showed their support, not just with their wallets, but their understanding of the difficulties we were going through, adapting and readapting to each new change.
The convivial atmosphere they created, their appetite and enjoyment of what we were offering and their generosity of praise and tips. Exceeding expectations and ensuring guests feel well looked after has always been my mantra but it just feels different now, it is hard to define. Feels like more of a shared thing now between us and our guests, trust feels strong, a belief in the pub. This gives me great faith to invest in our offering, push things a bit more, create more fun and variety.
Finally, our suppliers, forgotten to a large extent by the Government, but not by us.
The turmoil of the early weeks of lockdown and cashflow s**tshow soon transformed to one of calmness thanks to the ‘we’re right behind you’ attitude of our suppliers. Holding out without demand until we could raise finance. Then restocking us on more than one occasion, helping with free stock or equipment to help get the show on the road again. They were a massive partner in our ability to bounce back and it is why they are so important in 2021.
2021 is a major opportunity for a reset of our industry so that the dire straits we found ourselves in March won’t be repeated.
What needs addressing? The beer tie, upward-only rents, better landlord/tenant relationships, business rates, VAT and insurance. Every hospitality business knows it, the Government must (more reason for a Minster of Hospitality).
Sustainability, health and a better understanding of the importance of food in our diets for our ability to combat disease. This must start in schools but our industry can play a massive role in this. From employment, partnerships with education, understanding and sourcing of food.
Mid-March 2020, our financial year ending June, was on track to be our best to date. Lockdown meant it ended up being our worst. But the way our customers have reacted since July has given me great hope for 2021 once restrictions are lifted for good.
I have taken greater steps to be financially leaner, using technology to make us more efficient, paying suppliers earlier, creating a financial backstop.
There are still three to four months of hardship and unknowns ahead. Beyond the annoyance and frustration of the Government I do feel hopeful, we will survive and thrive.