Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Pubs and restaurants get their takeaway meal menus out again

Pubs and restaurants get their takeaway meal menus out again

PUBS and restaurants are ready to offer takeaways after being ordered to close under the new coronavirus lockdown rules.

Many experienced big demand for their services during the first national lockdown, when they also had to shut, and will use the successful models they established then offering selected menus.

Under the latest rules of the new lockdown, which came into force yesterday (Thursday), the establishments will not be allowed to sell alcohol to take away.

Shaun Dickens, who runs the Bistro at the Boathouse in Station Road, Henley, is bringing back his takeaway service.

Customers will be able to collect food on the decked area on Fridays between noon and 8.30pm and 10am to 8.30pm at weekends. They will be asked to queue at a safe distance while waiting to collect their orders.

Mr Dickens said: “We want to have a theme this time and are thinking a German Christmas market-style might be nice, particularly with all of the negativity that is happening at the moment — it will be nice to spread a bit of festive cheer. We are looking at things like cinnamon rolls, bratwurst and lots of mulled wine. When we did the first lockdown it was very summery with salads and chicken wraps but this time it will be a lot more hearty.”

The temporary closure of the restaurant means five staff will be put back on to furlough and only two will carry on working.

Mr Dickens would like to see more support for the hospitality sector. He said: “Unfortunately, this was to be expected but we are bordering on being fed up. It has been a really tough year.

“It is really hard and — apart from the furlough scheme, we still aren’t getting any support. We would like something to help with the overheads. The business rates holiday was welcome and so was the cut in VAT. I truly don’t think we would still be a business without those things.

“We don’t want free money — we know how hard we are going to have to work to keep going but there are a lot of costs that we still have to meet.”

He added: “We are going to survive. We’ve swivelled and pivoted the operation of the business really well and I am really proud with how well we’ve come through it and managed to secure everyone’s jobs so I can see a future for us.” The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row will offer takeaway food from Thursday to Sunday, from noon to 8.30pm. The menu will be updated every week.

Chef and owner Paul Clerehugh has decided to furlough about 25 staff and will operate with the help of his partner Mavis and three daughters, Matilda, 18, Delilah, 15, and Florence, 13.

Mr Clerehugh said: “I will miss my staff but I am lucky that my family will pull together and help me. I am so humbled and grateful for the support we had in the previous lockdown and how generous the community were.

“It would be incredible if we were lucky to enjoy some of that support again. With the community support, it means there is every chance that my business will survive. Without the incredible help from the community, we wouldn’t have survived.

“The takeaway doesn’t make us a profit — all it does is reduce our loss. In lockdown, I’ve still got overheads like the rent, utilities and insurance. We have to do this completely unpaid just to try to save the business.”

Customers need to give their orders over the phone and select a collection time. Card payments can be taken to avoid unnecessary contact.

Mr Clerehugh said: “We’ve got the benefit of having done this before and knowing what to do and how to be covid safe and look after people.

“Our customers are the heroes. The amazing, beautiful, local community that use the Crooked Billet deserve to be recognised. They’ve saved my bacon and it is a pleasure cooking their bacon.”

Orwells restaurant in Shiplake Row had only been open again for a month when Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that all non-essential businesses would have to close.

Before that, it had been operating a takeaway service and this will now come back again, although the days and times are yet to be finalised. The restaurant will also restart its community shop, which provided ready meals and basic essentials to residents earlier this year.

Ryan Simpson-Trotman, who runs the restaurant with his husband Liam, said: “We will be doing a variety of hot meals to take away, including fish and chips and OFC, which is our own Orwells fried chicken.

“We want to make sure we are still providing the Orwells experience but we haven’t decided on the days yet — we always do fish and chips on a Friday though.

“Some people have said the shop has been a lifeline this year and it helps us to keep our head above water. The most important thing from our perspective is being here to serve the community. We’ve had some really brilliant feedback and support.

“We were prepared to stick as a takeaway all of this year but when we were seeing all of our friends open up we thought it was the right time to come back.

“We knocked down walls and completely changed the restaurant and bought brand new furniture to make it fresh, clean and vibrant and the response we’ve had was overwhelming.

“Lockdown was announced and we were fully booked on Saturday because it was the last opportunity before it all closes down again.”

He said he would appreciate further financial support from the Government after refurbishing the restaurant to make it covid-safe.

Mr Simpson-Trotman said: “Grants would be better than loans — we would like to keep the VAT down and the business rates as well.

“I think there is a general feeling that there is a virus around us but we’ve just got to get on with our lives and keep the vulnerable protected. We are still in Tier 1 in this area, which shows we’ve been behaving well.

“I think people will be happier to go out more to the supermarkets this time but we will do anything we can to help with the community shop with some artisan products.

“The more people we talk to, the more we think it is going to last longer than four weeks but we’ve just got to get on with it.”

The Flowing Spring pub in Playhatch will continue to offer its full menu as takeaway seven days a week, from noon to 9pm, but will not be running an online shop.

Husband and wife Nick Willson and Hazel Lucas, who will celebrate 10 years at the freehouse next month, were “surprised” at the decision to ban the sale of alcohol on a takeaway basis.

Mr Willson said: “While we were planning to offer takeaways throughout lockdown, as we did so successfully earlier in the year, we really did not expect to be banned from selling our lovely beers.”

Regular customers were invited to buy cask ales and draught lagers this week before the new rules came into effect.

Mrs Lucas said: “We are predominantly a pub and not a restaurant so having to close for a month will affect us massively, but what can you do? As long as everybody is happy and healthy, you just have to roll with it and do the best you can.

“Everybody has pulled together and it has been a very challenging but interesting year. We were doing 14 or 16 hours a day some days but it was actually great fun and different.

“We are focusing more on our menu this time because you can still get what you need from the shops and Boris has said not to go out panic buying. It was mental last time.

“I’ve always done a reasonably large menu to try to cater for every kind of requirement.

“We’ve been giving out vouchers for £10 off meals throughout November and we’ve also been giving out copies of the takeaway menu to anyone who has come in. People are absolutely over the moon with it and it looks like we are going to be all right.

“If we receive any more help from the Government that would be nice. This is our house and not just where we work and that is when it becomes a bit scary.”

Ted Docherty, who runs the White Hart in Nettlebed, is finalising plans for the pub’s takeaway service.

Previously, it offered hot meals, groceries and fresh produce to villagers but he says it might not be viable to be open seven days a week during the second lockdown.

Mr Docherty said he could not understand why the Government had banned the sale of takeaway alcohol as it was an important part of the trade.

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “As if locking us down wasn’t hard enough, they are now removing one of the major incentives that we have to encourage people to come and order a takeaway.

“It infuriates me and undoubtedly I will write another letter to John Howell. I understand they have to control the virus and I wouldn’t have all the answers myself, but some of the decisions and the lack of answers as to why is, quite frankly, shambolic and bordering on a dictatorship rather than a democracy.

“It may have been possible to be open more often had the Government not banned the sale of alcohol. We still haven’t come to a conclusion on what we are going to do and how it will look but we will do something.”

Nigel Rainbow, landlord of the Three Horseshoes in Reading Road, Henley, hopes to make the most of the second lockdown with his takeaway service.

It will operate from Monday to Saturday, from 5.30pm to 8.30pm, with a slightly reduced menu. Customers can place their orders by phone and collect in 10-minute slots.

Mr Rainbow said: “A lot of people have been in touch and we’ve emailed a copy of the menu and if we can fill the slots like we did last time it should be really good. We’ve still got a few customers collecting takeaways even when we are open, which is brilliant.

“Banning the sale of alcohol is absolutely crazy. You can go to Tesco and buy whatever you like but not at pubs. It’s not like there are going to be crowds of people stood outside having just bought their drinks. I really can’t understand the logic. We still have the beer here and we will have to worry what we are going to do with it.

The pub will furlough five staff during the four-week closure, which is more than half of the overall staff.

Mr Rainbow hopes to offer his own version of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in January, offering 30 per cent off food from Monday to Wednesday.

He said: “We will get through this. We’ve been here 21 years and we are back up to where we were last year but now we will have to take another knock and come back again.”

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