As I pen this, it’s been exactly 10 days 4 hours and 14 seconds since Government restrictions were lifted and hospitality was allowed to open outdoors, writes Kate Williams.
Venues that have been able to open are working hard to give people the eating and drinking out experiences that we have all so sorely missed. It’s not a simple task – reopening for outdoor trading means that operators have had to be agile once again to follow the guidelines and open safely – with reduced seating to allow for social distancing, one-way systems, table service, navigating order apps, dealing with no-shows – and of course, the Great British Weather. That’s not forgetting that most that have managed to open this time around (three quarters of licensed premises remain closed) will be trading on a fraction of their typical revenues.
As you’d expect, myself and the team at FSC were waiting on tender hooks for our first steps back into hospitality. We’ve all been out and about and gosh it feels good! And so this post is simply a Pub Appreciation Post. Thanks to all the venues we’ve visited– you’ve absolutely smashed it and we’ll see you again soon!
“I decided to chance meeting some friends in East London for brunch on Saturday. Amazingly, we managed to get a spot at my local in the sun at Ozone Emma Street, who have built a very small outdoor area with some benches. We had the most delicious food with the most friendly and welcoming service. For our first experience back I couldn’t fault it – we all left beaming! We then went on to a booked table at another favourite, Grow in Hackney Wick, in the evening. The place is known to be a bit lively on a Saturday and so I know they’ve really had to adapt their offering to bring the vibes while keeping everyone safe. We all wrapped up and sat under the heaters next to the canal, drank the wine and had a fantastic time. I did notice a couple of tables with no-shows which is so frustrating knowing that they are like gold dust. If you can’t make it, for God’s sake – cancel it. Kate Williams, Senior Account Manager
“Having left it to the last minute to book something for my fiancés birthday, I searched around my local area (Surbiton) to see if any of my usual choices had something available. The fact that I was looking for a lunch booking on the first Saturday after restrictions had lifted, I wasn’t confident. Everything was booked up – and it served me right! However, I remembered a cute little pub (The Berrylands), away from the main stretch, that I had passed a few times on my daily lockdown walks. I chanced it – and low and behold a booking for six was available for lunch! And it couldn’t have been a more perfect afternoon. We had a spot outside where the sun was shining, the staff were amazing – even though our waitress was on her third day ever – she was so helpful and welcoming. And after a little bit of working out the tech to log into the online system – food was eaten, drinks we were drunk – and fun was had. All in all – an incredible welcome back to the on-trade.” Kaye Rawlings, Senior Account Director
“At 17 days old, Billy enjoyed his first ever pub visit on Monday, heading to the fantastic Hatton Arms in Warwickshire with his mum and dad. Stunning weather, beautiful views, a huge outdoor seating area, cracking beer selection (mum was driving so dad enjoyed a Clwb Tropica and a Peroni) and delicious steak meant that it all added up to a wonderful afternoon. Hats off to the brilliant staff who have been working 13-hour shifts for the past week.” Ed Whitehead, Associate Director
“It was amazing to feel somewhat ‘normal’ again, albeit cold. Sitting in The Masons Arms’ beer garden, sipping a draught cider in a puffer coat felt… British! In terms of Covid guidelines, I felt extremely safe. Tables were well spaced, staff were all wearing head shields or masks and there are hand sanitizing stations everywhere. Couldn’t be happier to be back at my local!” Emily Burnett, Account Manager
“Great to be back and hear the excited chatter of friends and family catching up and enjoying being back together at The Wiremill in Surrey. It was chilly but no-one seemed to mind and what was heartening was how friendly people were with the staff and how, in turn, they were keen on making it a special occasion for customers. We need to keep supporting pubs, bars and restaurants in the months ahead.” Mike Berry, Head of Content
“Perhaps it was the snow that had fallen in the morning but the atmosphere in the pub garden at my local, The Railway in Streatham Common, had a vibe of Christmas about it on that opening Monday. Families and friends gathering, neighbours greeting each other like long-lost friends (socially distant of course), over excited children waving at their friends, and some enthusiastic drinking done by all. Fortunately, it was a lot warmer than the average December and so a pint or two of Beavertown in the garden accompanied by some hot crunchy whitebait was the perfect re-introduction to the pub.” Robyn Black, Senior Consultant
“It felt so good to be back in The Maynard Arms’ beer garden and to feel a sense of normality again. There was such a buzz of positivity around us, it was great! Although we were only granted a 90 minute slot, it was definitely worth it. I just hope we can do spontaneous pub trips soon!” Charlotte Cavanagh, Senior Account Executive
“I couldn’t miss the opportunity to nip down to my local and genuinely favourite pub in London – The Lord Stanley, Camden – on the 12th. I’ve lost many an evening in this pub and very happy to report another has been added to a long list. Just so good to be back and enjoying a few pints in the pub with friends again!” Charlie Martin, Account Executive
“I made a few last-minute trips with housemates to the Pepper Saint Ontiod on the Isle of Dogs. I hadn’t been very organised up to now and made any bookings so it was such a relief to be able to walk in and get seated straight away as I didn’t think it would be possible! It really felt like such a blessing to be able to enjoy sitting in a pub again with the sun shining down on us too – a big highlight for me was sipping on an Aperol Spritz again as I haven’t done this since last summer!” Sofia Leadbetter, Account Executive
“I went for brunch at Café Chai in Banstead. Everyone was super friendly, we had a buzzer to call someone over to take orders, pay for the bill, etc. Much more techy than usual! You could tell they had really thought it through and it was lovely to be out in the sunshine! It felt odd at first, but nice to be back to some kind of normality.” Sheniz Ozdemir, Account Manager
“A buzzing, friendly atmosphere at Santoré in Farringdon. Considering how busy it was the service was exceptional, I couldn’t flaw it. They made us feel safe without being over the top with safety regulations – perfect!” Lucy Hatherell, Junior Account Executive
“First pint back at The Victoria in Surbiton! Sounds ridiculous, but I’d forgotten how exciting it was to see your food/drink being carried towards you on a tray!” Jordan Wood, Senior Account Executive