Now we’re easing out of lockdown, we can see a bright light through that gloomy tunnel, and I’m excited!

Businesses are keen to get back to some normality, but the hospitality rules have changed. Now we have limited outdoor seating areas, distancing at bars, face masks and polite smiles from a distance. These changes represent high costs to businesses. While a national chain may better absorb these, they have a considerable impact on the bottom line for smaller independents.

Your local pubs, restaurants and cafés support your community and keep it healthy not just through local employment but also by supporting local businesses from butchers, bakeries, florists, local wholesalers and many more. As we get back to business, choosing to support your local establishments gives a much-needed lifeline so #EatLocal and #SupportLocal where you can.  

In my area, we have a mix of independent pubs and restaurants that have opened their doors to outdoor drinking and eating, but of course, the rules have changed, and we now have to book ahead. On one of our Saturday walks with the dogs, we had an impromptu diversion to our local. It looked packed, so we weren’t expecting to get a table. However, they had gone from being fully booked to having three no-shows for two 4’s and a table of six.

I don’t know about you, but I took part in Eat Out to Help Out. After what seemed like a lifetime, I enjoyed going out again, but I couldn’t help feeling just a little disappointed with the scaled-down menus. While I understand the reasons for turning stock and keeping things moving, I just felt underwhelmed.

In July 2020, I spent six days straight in a business hotel with an attached restaurant. The terms of my contract obliged me to eat in the hotel, but their limited breakfast and dinner menus were already stale by day two. 

I ended up going out to explore local restaurants to alleviate the boredom. I have a confession to make; I only eat plant-based food, so I’m never going to be the easiest of customers to please!

The upshot is that I chose to eat out from the hotel four evenings of the six, and I paid out of my pocket to do so. Which meant the hotel restaurant missed out.

I ate breakfast in the hotel every day, which was limited by COVID-19. Yes, I got “oh sorry sir, we don’t have oat milk” and “the vegan sausages haven’t turned up”. But on the third day, the manager went to the local store and bought the missing products himself. Good for him; excellent service won the day even if the supplier was struggling to meet demand.

They had managed to fill one of the 4’s, and then there was us, but as we were only there for drinks, they had effectively lost three tables of eaters. 

We all know that circumstances change, but please let the venue know if you can’t make it so they can release your booking. Not only is it polite, but it will enable them to try and fill the space, arrange stock and staffing and help with their much-needed cash flow.   

On a positive note, all the outdoor areas are busy as escaping cabin fever has driven us into open spaces and pub gardens benefit. I cannot wait for May 17 when we can sit indoors. I have a compilation of local eateries on my hit list and already have two venues booked that are within walking distance from our home. One is our local Indian with friends and a special birthday family meal with our favourite Italian.

#EatLocal, #SupportLocal and spread the word how great your experience was. Our community businesses need us more than ever.

June 21  Freeeeeedom!

Contributed by Paul Hunt, Development Chef, food stylist and chef trainer with 40 years of experience working in the UK and Europe


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