Following this week’s announcement of a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, Dermot King, CEO of Hertfordshire-based Oakman Inns which owns six family-friendly pubs in the county, (Banyers House, Royston, Beech House, St Albans, Kings Arms, Berkhamsted, Red Lion Water End and The Akeman and Grand Junction Arms in Tring) says his business and other COVID-secure hospitality operators can lead the way in creating a safe socialising environment through the next six months and beyond.
Eat Out to Help Out extended to October
King revealed his pub group, which employs around 1,000 people, is set to extend their own Eat Out to Help Out scheme – which offers 50% off per person up to a maximum of £10 on food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – throughout October, which will, of course, include the school half-term.
‘The scheme was a success when the Government launched it and our guests have appreciated it too, so it made total sense for us to continue in September. By extending the offer into October it allows friends and families to meet up safely outside their homes and give themselves a much-needed treat in these uncertain times.’
Providing a Covid-safe place to go out
King believes that Oakman Inns has led the way in changing how they operate during the pandemic by developing Covid-secure measures that provide a safe and secure balance between protecting the health of both customers and staff as well as diminishing the risk of economic disaster.
‘Back in April, we decided the way forward was to find solutions that allowed us to operate while ensuring our team and guests were safe and protected. That is the path we are continuing to take in the light of the PM’s latest announcement,’ said King, whose business operates 28 pubs, restaurant and hotels in and around the Home Counties.
He went on: ‘To that end, when ‘lockdown’ was announced in March, we invested quickly and heavily in measures that are now commonplace in our sector: seated table service only for maximum of six guests, screens between tables, one-way systems, disposable menus, intensive and regular cleaning and so on. As a result, the Government used one of our venues to make their ‘best practice’ film, widely shown as the operational exemplar. This meant that when we were able to reopen on 4 July, we did so with the trust and support of our guests and our retrained teams.’
Developing innovative, safe solutions for the future
In the intervening 11 weeks, Oakman Inns has served more than 1.5m customers who they know from their Track & Trace systems have not caught any respiratory disease during their time at an Oakman Inn – nor have any of their staff. The company is also continuing to innovate and to develop solutions for the coming winter months, which will be announced next month.
King added: ‘We’re not powerful enough to change the Government’s mind, nor do we have the time to argue about the interpretations of the data. Our job is to provide safe hospitality within our communities, provide great food and service and provide safe employment and rewarding careers. We believe the hospitality sector can be the standard-bearer for charting the positive, safe and sensible course through the next six months.’