Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Pubs keep food and drink flowing during lockdown

Pubs keep food and drink flowing during lockdown

PUBS and restaurants in the Henley area have become takeaways and farm shops during the coronavirus pandemic.

They are a lifeline for vulnerable people who are self-isolating and can’t leave home or can’t get to a supermarket or are unable to cook. Many of the businesses are based in rural areas.

The Three Horseshoes in Reading Road, Henley, is offering a takeaway service from Tuesday to Saturday from 5.30pm to 8pm despite the staff being

Nigel Rainbow, who has run the pub with his wife Julie for almost 21 years, said: “We have reduced our menu to some classic items we are known for, such as our burger, chicken burger, fish and chips and chilli.

“It is all served in 10-minute slots so there is no social interaction. You call the pub and pick a slot from Tuesday to Saturday.

“We have been doing 20 to 30 meals a session. Two Saturdays ago we sold out and had to turn people away.”

Mrs Rainbow is doing the cooking and the couple’s son Mathew takes the orders.

Mr Rainbow said he had lots of regulars who were in their eighties and didn’t cook at home so they were relying on the pub.

“They come to us on a regular basis,” he said. “It is about us giving back to the community. We are just doing our bit for the people who need us.

“Serving the meals has helped us to keep ticking over. We still get bills coming in but a lot have been deferred and we have applied for the Government hospitality grant of £25,000.

“It is something to look forward to when it’s all over. This may be 10 or 12 weeks away but we have been here nearly 21 years and we are in a good position to come out on the other side. We are confident we will be there at the end of it.”

The White Hart hotel and restaurant in Nettlebed is offering hot takeaway meals, groceries and fresh produce.

Ted Docherty, who has been the proprietor since 2008, said: “We are in a village and all we have is a petrol station so we thought we could use our supply chain to bring people the basic essentials.

“When we started we had a WhatsApp group but after three days we couldn’t keep track.

“We had our website redesigned in one-and-a-half days so it is really easy to use to order items and it has grown from there.

“It is very important that, as a community, we look after our own. We had a choice when the pub closed to just go home and watch Netflix or we could try to do something.

“All the staff who live here said they would volunteer and it is an honour for me to try to help villagers as they support me through the rest of the year.”

The hotel receives between 70 and 80 food orders a day and the meal is varied each night. Fish and chips is one of the most popular meals.

Mr Docherty said: “The groceries are things like bread, butter, cheese and milk and we have put together orders that were worth up to £160.

“You order online by 3pm and you can collect it between 5pm and 9pm. We have a big table outside which we put the boxes on so a customer doesn’t need to enter the pub and we don’t have to leave it to give it to them.

“If you can’t collect, the village has put together a list of volunteers to take it to you.”

Mr Docherty said he had furloughed all 16 staff and those who don’t live at the hotel were staying at home.

He added: “We are all in it together and they love the positive feelings coming from the community.

“At staff meetings we say that we will ‘Dunkirk the hell out of this’. As long as our supply chain holds, we won’t stop, we will go on as long as this goes on for.”

Kate Makin, who only took over the Rising Sun in Witheridge Hill in January, is offering boxes of supplies for collection or local delivery.

She said: “Where we are there is nothing. It is just me and the nursery school in Highmoor so for people who can’t leave the house, it is hard for them to collect supplies.

“We started doing fresh fruit and vegetables and bacon, sausages and whole chickens so people have the basics to make other things.

“From Tuesday to Friday people place an order and we take payment over the phone or contactless on collection from the garden between 2pm and 3pm and then we deliver between 3pm and 4pm.

“We ask people to give their name on arrival, we place the box on the table and then step away and they collect it so we are social distancing.

“The first week of the lockdown was absolutely mental. We had to unplug the phone and people clearly couldn’t cope but in the second week, as the shops were better supplied, it dropped off a bit. We now get between 10 and 20 a day with Tuesday being the busiest.

“I am doing things at cost price. It is not about me, it is about helping those, particularly the elderly or vulnerable, who can’t leave their homes.”

Miss Makin said there was just her and chef Jordan Head working at the Brakspear pub.

She said: “I have furloughed three people and I am topping up their wages.

“I have applied for the hospitality grant and, if we are eligible, that will cover our living costs. It is an old and draughty building and it will help to heat it and keep the lights on.

“Brakspear have been on the end of the phone if we need them and they have suspended our rent, which is helpful.”

The Highwayman Inn in Checkendon has launched a beer and food takeaway service seven days a week, providing general groceries including fresh produce. It also delivers to residents who are self-isolating.

Executive chef Paul Burrows said: “If people want stuff and we have got it, they can have it. It is not just flour or sugar, we can get most things from our suppliers.

“We are happy to deliver locally to those self-isolating, especially older people. I have also done a few meals as donations to people who were struggling financially.”

He has 12 staff living on site who have been furloughed and a couple of them have volunteered to help with the takeaway service.

The number of orders has varied by the week. On one Saturday the pub did about 200 meals.

Mr Burrows said: “We are trying to get people to email us through the website and tell us what they want and the quantity they want and then they can pay over the phone or contactless on delivery.

“Flour, eggs and fresh fruit are the things people have been ordering mostly. The only problem I have had is getting self-raising flour and fresh fish as my fish supplier in Cornwall is stopping delivery until this is all over.

“It is not about making money because what we are making from this does not even scratch the surface of the rent or the bills, it is about spreading a little love in the community. It has been well received with lots of positive feedback. We are helping each other and it is a nice way of keeping our name out there.”

Mr Burrows, who has also applied for the £25,000 Government grant, says he is confident the business will survive the pandemic.

“We have a solid business anyway,” he said. “We turn over
£1 million a year, so not re-opening again isn’t in my mind.

“My rent is £5,000 a month and my landlord says no matter how long it takes we don’t have to pay until we are open again

“We shall get through it, even if this lasts three months.”

The Half Moon pub and pizzeria at Cuxham, near Watlington, is continuing with its takeaway service.

Vaska Battley, who has run the business for five years, said: “This is already an established part of our business as we have been doing it for four years.

“We have a window here where people can come up, collect and pay for their food.

“We are wearing gloves and we have hand sanitiser and people pay using a card.

“I have recognised a lot of our regular customers who would normally eat in have come for takeaway. Pizza and pasta are the most popular dishes.

“As long as we are getting takeaway orders we will be able to continue.”

The Five Horseshoes pub in Maidensgrove is offering groceries and meat packs for collection once a week.

Licensees Dan and Tracey Taverner say orders must be received by noon on Monday and then they contact their suppliers, Calnans butcher’s in Watlington, to see what’s available.

Mrs Taverner said: “It has been working well. We have a large car park so people drive up and wait for a slot and then come to the door and we put it straight into the boot of their car so there is no contact.

“The numbers of orders is increasing. It has generally been for local customers in Stonor, Pishill, Swyncombe, Russells Water and Maidensgrove but we have had a few from Henley.”

Mrs Taverner, who is a Swyncombe parish councillor, added: “I wanted to do something to help. It is to keep in contact with people and also keeping our suppliers in business because they are hit hard too.

“Dan bakes bread and he has been doing 40 loaves on a Wednesday and that has been going down well. We are delivering to those not coming out of their houses. We have probably helped about half a dozen people that way.”

She added: “We have had to furlough our staff, two full-time chefs and part-time staff, and I have applied for the hospitality grant.”

The Flowing Spring in Playhatch is running a shopping and takeaway service and owners Nick Willson and his wife Hazel Lucas say there has been huge demand.

The service is available every day and the couple will deliver orders to houses as far as the neighbouring parishes.

Mr Willson said: “We are really busy. We started working on it the same day we were told to close. I finished the website and the orders started coming in straight away.

“We are really happy to be able to supply all these things to the local community and play our part. If people want something then we hope to be able to provide it.

“The shelves are bare in many shops but we are able to find a lot of essentials through wholesale providers.”

Mr Willson and his wife arrange a pick-up time with customers and leave the order outside when they arrive in the car park.

He added: “We are offering most of our usual menu of hot meals as well, so we are cooking to order. We are getting orders all day long and not just from traditional customers.

“Hazel and I are doing almost everything. We have a couple of volunteers who help out with deliveries at peak times but apart from that it’s just us. We usually have Mondays off but we don’t even get that now. We are probably working 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It is really rewarding being able to help people. We feel like we are doing a valuable service for the community.”

The Maltsters Arms in Rotherfield Greys was giving away beer to key workers until it ran out and is now selling bottles of wine from the restaurant wine list with £5 knocked off.

Gary Clarke, who has been running the pub with his wife Donna since January, said: “There is a limited life to beer so we decided to get rid of it rather than pour it on the garden.

“There are also quite a few nurses and ambulance crews who travel to Reading the back way and come past the pub, so we decided to put out some chalk signs saying two pints free for service staff and that worked really well. That got rid of everything within a week.

“The police came and I thought we had been doing something wrong but they just asked whether what we were offering was true and said they would come back after work.

“We thought members of the emergency services wouldn’t have time to get things like this. The people who were stopping came early in the morning after a night shift or late in the evening.”

Mr Clarke has furloughed all four staff, including himself and his wife.

He said: “My wife is high risk with asthma and we have an 18-month old, so I couldn’t have staff going out doing deliveries. It is bad enough for me going to cash and carry getting supplies. I do have a volunteer card and I try to help people with groceries and we are selling wine from the wine list with £5 off.

“In the meantime, we have been filling the days getting the garden ready for the summer and redecorating.

“If we can find a way through this and keep the place running then we will be okay.”

Orwells in Shiplake Row has launched a community shop, which provides ready meals and basic essentials, including fresh bread.

Ryan Simpson-Trotman, who runs the restaurant with his husband Liam, said: “We didn’t want to give into this covid-19.

“As soon as it all started and we saw people panic buying at Tesco, taking all their stock, we thought we would utilise our supply chain and use it to support the local community. The response has been absolutely amazing.” The pair are fulfilling about 100 orders a day, ranging from a bag of flour to a three-course meal.

Mr Simpson-Trotman said: “One customer was turning 100 and really wanted lobster on her birthday so she had a prawn cocktail to start, followed by lobster thermidor and rhubarb crumble.

“She still wanted to celebrate and it is great that she has been able to do that.

“We could have closed down and done the furlough thing but we called our version of a Cobra meeting and called it Operation Loch Ness as we wanted to keep our heads above water.

“We can’t make the kind of money we were making with the restaurant but this keeps us busy and enables us to keep the whole workforce on. There are people who are self-isolating and need help and we will keep on pushing to serve the community and then have one big party at the end of it.”

Sharon Harper is running a farm shop at the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon.

The pub is offering fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, diary and dry goods as well as oils and other essentials by pre-order.

Mrs Harper said: “I don’t want people coming up here unless they have ordered.

“It is only me here doing it so there is the least amount of contact possible.

“I am like a personal shopper — if I can get the things then I will. We want to keep our suppliers in business for when we open up again.”

She is receiving between 40 and 50 orders a day, mainly fruit and vegetables.

The pub is not doing cooked food as the chef has diabetes so is in the at-risk category. All the staff have been furloughed.

Mrs Harper said: “Nobody knows how long this will go on for so I am going to keep doing this as we still have costs and need a revenue stream.

“Our existing customers want to support us. They have all said they miss our Sunday lunch.”

The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row has launched a basic provisions, ready meals and takeaway service.

Paul Clerehugh, who runs the pub-restaurant, said: “I’m keen to support my local community and the local suppliers that have served me so well over the years.

“Only one chef is working in the kitchen and one person brings shop provisions and takeaway food to your car or the collections point, which is a table by the front door.” The meat is being supplied by Carl Woods butchers in Sonning Common.

Hof’s Bar and Dining in Market Place, Henley, is offering its usual Sunday roast as a takeaway meal.

Customers must place their orders by 3pm on a Friday in order to pick up their chicken, pork knuckle or beef from a window at the side of the premises.

The business may also launch a weekday takeaway service, selling cooked meals in vacuum packs for people to heat up.

Owner Christopher Hof said: “Our usual trade is gone but a lot of regular clients were asking to buy Sunday roasts so we’ve kept that going as a gesture to the community.

“It’s not really profitable but it’s something that people appreciate and keeps them feeling human at a very unusual and sometimes difficult time.”

Two members of staff have been furloughed.

Mr Hof said: “We’re quite lucky in that a number of other staff had just left anyway and we were still looking to replace them when the restrictions began.

“We’re a new business so it’s a bit of a smack in the mouth for us as things were starting to look good.

“We were looking forward to reaping the benefits of our efforts but it feels like it has gone down the drain.

“However, we’re looking on the positive side and using the extra time to do things we wouldn’t normally have done. I’m confident we’ll get through it.”

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