A village pub landlord in south Warwickshire has found introducing table service for her guests due to COVID-19 has resulted in an interesting side effect – a big boost in drink sales.
Daphne Leck, who has run The Merrie Lion in Fenny Compton for the last eight years, has found providing drinkers with a table service has meant they tend to order more than they would queuing up at the bar.
And because of this increase in drink sales, Daphne is now planning on keeping the service even after restrictions are eventually lifted.
She said: “With the restrictions imposed on us by COVID-19, we decided to implement table service for drinkers, as maintaining social distancing at our bar would have been almost impossible.
“To be honest, we weren’t sure how successful it would be. But since introducing it, our drinks sales have actually gone up rather than down.
“What we’ve found is that drinkers who are directly asked ‘would you like another drink’ by our waiting staff are more likely to say ‘yes’, simply because it’s less hassle than having to queue up at a busy bar.
“I’d say each drinker – who isn’t driving of course – tends to have one more pint than they would have done before, which is adding up to a good boost in sales.
“I think retaining table service for those who want it after COVID restrictions are gone will be a great idea for us.”
While table service has been successful for the Merrie Lion, other aspects of running a pub post-lockdown have proven more challenging.
Daphne said: “Convincing visitors to stay in their seats is not easy – the whole point of coming to a pub for many people is to meet and mingle with others.
“Our trade is very weather-dependent. When it is sunny, we can always serve people outside, but our indoor capacity is limited with the social distancing restrictions. If it rains, our sales drop drastically.
“Finally, our B&B side of the business is very slow. Our six rooms used to be fully booked with people attending all sorts of events like the British Grand Prix and the National Metro & Mini Show in Gaydon, but now those have all been cancelled, fewer people are choosing to stay.”
However, Daphne is remaining optimistic about the future of The Merrie Lion. A Discretionary Business Rate Grant awarded to the pub by Stratford District Council was able to keep it going during lockdown and has provided an extra lifeline for Daphne.
She added: “The grant was crucially important for our survival – I was so impressed with how fast the money was in my account after I applied for it. I have to thank Stratford District Council for that.
“I haven’t used the money for refurbishments or anything like that. I have decided to bank a good amount of it just in case there’s a second lockdown on the horizon.
“But so far, the people of Fenny Compton have been so supportive in coming back to the pub since we reopened in July.
“If I can just make it through the winter when business tends to be slower, I’ll be really happy.”
Businesses in the district are also being supported by Stratford District Council to promote the safe reopening of the High Streets in response to Covid-19 through the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The project has received £116,036 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding
Caption – Daphne Leck at The Merrie Lion in Fenny Compton.