Although the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme ends on Bank Holiday Monday, 31 August, Oakman Inns, which operates six family-friendly pubs in Hertfordshire (Banyers House, Royston, Beech House, St Albans, Kings Arms, Berkhamsted, Red Lion, Water End and The Akeman and Grand Junction Arms in Tring) has chosen to continue it through the whole of September.
Oakman Inns, which is headquartered in Tring, manages 28 pubs and restaurants across the Midlands and Home Counties, saw visitor numbers in line with industry figures. According to the company’s CEO, Dermot King, the scheme appears to have achieved its aim of bringing back those customers who were hesitant about eating out. He said: ‘According to one recent survey, more than half said that the experience made them feel more confident about going out in the near future, and most of the rest (45%) said their confidence was unaffected.’
With table-only service, their restaurants were often fully booked during the first two weeks, with many of the customers making their first visit to an Oakman Inn.
However, keen to maintain this momentum, Oakman Inns has now taken the decision to continue to offer 50% off (up to a maximum of £10 per person) all food and soft drinks consumed on the premises on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – including breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
‘There is no doubt that the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a major factor in helping us get back on our feet after several months without any revenue at all,’ said Dermot King.
Oakman Inns has not only brought back from furlough their near 1,000-strong workforce, but has even created 105 further jobs, in order to meet the new compliance requirements.
However, King is still urging caution and looking for further support from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
King explained: ‘It has been a very encouraging start, but the road to recovery is going to be a very long one and it is going to take much more than a few months of offers to get the hospitality sector back to where it was before lockdown,’ he said. ‘We urgently need a review of the fiscal disparity between supermarkets and the hospitality sector with a specific focus on VAT. We would like to see 5% VAT extended past the January deadline but extended to include all processed foods, such as ready meals, sandwiches, pasties etc – money which could be pumped straight back into healthier school meals, giving every kid a chance to have a better start in life.’
He continued: ‘We also need to have a root and branch examination of the entire business rates system which provides a fairer and more coherent tax, and we would further urge the Chancellor to scrap employers’ National Insurance contributions on all employees who earn under £20,000. This would help create jobs at a time when people all over the country are losing theirs. The current system effectively taxes job creation and we must bring an end to that.’
The pub group announced last week that it has been recognised for a second time in this year’s Princess Royal Training Awards for their outstanding staff training and development programmes.