Saturday, 08 May 2021
PUBS and restaurants are weighing up the benefits of operating as takeaways during the latest coronavirus lockdown.
Hospitality businesses have struggled over the last 12 months, losing huge amounts of income through forced closures and having to spend large sums on ensuring their businesses are safe for customers.
With January typically being a quieter month and the Government’s furlough scheme having been extended to April, some business owners don’t believe takeaways are a viable option.
The sale of alcohol is not permitted, even though it was during the second lockdown in November following a government U-turn in response to widespread criticism.
Chef Paul Clerehugh, who runs the Crooked Billet at Stoke Row, is continuing to stay open for takeaways, as he did during the previous two lockdowns, even though all his staff are on furlough.
The service is available from Friday to Sunday, from noon to 7pm, and includes Sunday roasts, winter warmers and specials.
Mr Clerehugh said: “I’m not confident about doing it in the winter and particularly January and February. There was something quite lovely about doing it in the summer but I am not optimistic this time.
“But I have got to do takeaway to try to keep the business afloat. I don’t fall into any category of furloughing myself, so I have to support the overheads and do anything I can to get some revenue coming in.”
Mr Clerehugh, who has run the pub-restaurant for 31 years, said: “I do wonder if I should continue with the business, or if I should look for another sort of work.
“I feel like I should persevere because I have a lot of staff that I’m responsible for. Part of my mind is saying to do something different and give the restaurant up but I feel stuck because I have to look after my staff.”
Mr Clerehugh is able to apply for a £6,000 business grant from the Government, but said: “It sounds like a lot of money but it has virtually no benefit for us. When you look at the overheads that we’ve got and keeping open to do the takeaways, that crumb of money is gone immediately.
“On the upside, I am really lucky that I love cooking and enjoy being in the kitchen and being creative with the menu.”
Orwells restaurant in Shiplake Row is offering takeaways from 5.30pm to 8pm, from Thursday to Saturday, while its community shop is available seven days a week.
Thursdays will be focused on barbecue dishes, with fish and chips on Fridays and pizza on Saturdays.
Liam Simpson-Trotman, who runs the restaurant with his husband Ryan, said: “We’re back doing what we did in March. It was popular then and we also want to give the locals something to look forward to.
“We sold out of the smoky chicken and fish and chips on the first two days, so the early signs are promising.
“I think it is going to turn the normal January trade on its head — we are in lockdown again and there isn’t a lot else for people to do. It also helps to keep us sane by keeping us busy.”
The community shop includes a deli counter and the Orwells website stocks ready meals, fish, fruit and vegetables, fresh bread and other essentials.
Orwells delivers to homes within a 10-mile radius and customers can also collect their order in 30-minute intervals between noon and 4pm.
Mr Simpson-Trotman said: “This will never be as profitable as being able to have the restaurant open but it is enough to pay the bills, keep the business ticking over and stay a firm favourite in the community.
“We’ve never used furlough and we are trying to stand on our own two feet. Nothing is free in life and if you start taking lots of loans then it leaves you with lots of debt. We also don’t like taking advantage of the Government and think that where you can adapt, you should.”
The Row Barge in West Street, Henley, is also offering takeaways.
The menu includes a variety of stone-baked pizzas and pub classics and fish and chips on Fridays.
These are available from Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm to 9pm, with a Sunday roast from 12.30pm to 4pm.
Joe Miller, landlord of the Brakspear pub, said: “It has been a little slower this time but it is starting to pick up. It would have been a good time for them to allow us to sell alcohol.
“It isn’t even about making a profit but just getting your costs back. There are still so many bills, even though the doors are shut, so if I can do enough to break even I will be a happy man.”
He said the timing of the lockdown was unhelpful, explaining: “I’ve had to throw a fair bit of stock away and I have a few more barrels in the cellar that will have to go.”
Mr Miller is applying for a £6,000 business grant and will furlough three members of staff.
He added: “I am hopeful things will start to go back to normal around May. I am quite optimistic with the way the Government is pushing the vaccine.”
The Flowing Spring pub in Playhatch is offering the usual food menu for takeaway and delivery every day from noon to 9pm.
Nick Willson, who runs the pub with his wife Hazel Lucas, said: “It worked really well in the first lockdown and again in November, so it was a no-brainer. We have a really good customer base who keep coming back, so it is obviously a service they appreciate.”
He expects the lockdown to last at least three months.
Mr Willson said: “To have enough people vaccinated and have the R number go down, it would make sense to keep it going until March and then review it.
“I have always said the health and safety of everyone is far more important. There is no point running a business if everyone is dead.
“When they relaxed everything in the summer, it didn’t take long for it to go mad again. Had they kept with tighter rules for longer, this might not have happened. Somehow we will get through it with determination and persistence.”
Jayne Worrall, landlady of the Bull pub in Wargrave, did not do takeaways during the first lockdown, but they proved to be popular with her regulars during the November lockdown.
She offers a range of dishes on Fridays and Saturdays from 5.30pm to 8.30pm and also a Sunday roast from noon to 5pm. Customers collect their orders in 15-minute intervals at a safe distance.
Mrs Worrall said: “Takeaway sales during the November lockdown were very good, so we carried on doing it even when we were able to open the pub back up again.
“I was previously doing it on Wednesday and Thursday, but the demand just wasn’t there. It is a balancing act and I am going to have to see how it goes in January, which tends to be a quiet month. I will have to review it as I go.”
Mrs Worrall, who first worked at the Brakspear pub in 1980, added: “I am concerned though. Last year, I only traded for eight months and if we don’t open until April then we are already down to eight or nine months for this year.
“I’m not a pessimist — I am just trying to be real — and I work on the basis that if I prepare for the worst-case scenario then anything else is a bonus. I am also a firm believer that if everyone had toed the line from day one, we probably wouldn’t be in this position.”
The Horns pub in Crazies Hill is also offering takeaways on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm to 9pm and Sunday lunch from noon to 3pm.
Owen Hardy, who has run the Brakspear pub with his fiancée Jade Jeffries, since September, said: We opened the business at the worst time but I am hopeful. Things were going really well and I am confident we will be busy when we can re-open.”
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