Pubs and bars may be shut for the duration of lockdown, but the twin lifelines of delivery and takeaway offer a chance to keep customers spending money and venues open, albeit in a considerably reduced way.
Many pubs and bars were already getting into delivery and takeaway long before the first lockdown and plenty of others embraced it during the first lockdown back in March. For many this is a new challenge, but one that brings fresh opportunities. So how can operators get this right for their customers?
We spoke to Kevin Abbott, co-owner of The Anchor in Wingham, about how lockdown 1 and 2 has affected this business in different ways, as well as how he's adapted to changing customer demands and opportunities.
Definitely the easiest of the 2 to start with no real major changes other than menu choices and packaging.
If you decide to offer food and drink as takeaway options, then it will be the customers who are in charge of getting things back to their own home. Having your customers arrive to your doorstep and interact with the pub itself, albeit in a peculiar kind of way, could be an incredibly important way to retain the community connectivity that is the lifeblood of pubs and bars.
If it’s possible for pubs to offer a drive-thru option this could be a useful differential to other takeaway options, allowing people to get their food without having to enter any premises and expose themselves to other, potentially infectious, customers. Operators have worked incredibly hard to make sure that their venues are Covid-compliant, so continuing this good work and informing customers about this through app sign-ups and track trace will make them feel safer.
Should operators choose to handle the actual delivery of their food and drink themselves, they can also continue to connect with their customers face to face, showing up on people’s doorstep with fantastic meals straight from the kitchen. However, they will need to ensure that they are taking the correct steps to look after the food en-route.
“We’re using proper fish and chip boxes,” says Abbott in Wingham. “They are ventilated to keep the fish crispy and the food hot. We also use a ‘hot bag’ which is a big, foil-lined bag. We use some of the foil containers that you get in Indian takeaways for the steak and ale pies. They retain heat really well. We then put the gravy in a separate one and put the vegetables into a plastic container that’s microwaveable. That way, you can give it a blast in the microwave if it’s not hot enough. The chefs know whether it’s delivery or takeaway so can time things appropriately. We also try to just deliver three or four drops at a time in a certain area so the food isn’t sitting in a bag for 45 minutes.”
There are also companies that have dedicated themselves to delivering food for a long time. And so, if operators were thinking of taking this delivery and takeaway trend more seriously – and it was a growing phenomenon even before the first lockdown – then it might be worth considering a partnership with Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat or another platform. There are costs to consider, given that a percentage of the takings will be taken by the delivery company, but the added exposure on their websites and the eliminated hassle of arranging your own delivery could make it a worthwhile investment.
Regardless of whether you opt for delivery or takeaway, it is important not to lose sight of other important initiatives like sustainability. Covid has brought back habits of throwing things away after one use, but if, like Britvic, you are using recyclable packaging, then this will reduce the environmental impact of your delivery services.