We salute one of the companies that pulled out the stops for the nation as firms gear up to get back to business

LOCKDOWN has made us appreciate the things we once took for granted, not least a pint in the local. So the news that many pubs are to reopen from Saturday is more than welcome.

The economy needs a boost and the hospitality trade is one of the sectors that will help kickstart the recovery.

Philip Turner is founder of The Chestnut Group, a chain of 11 pubs in East Anglia. He says: “It’s a huge relief to us and, judging by the bookings coming in since the announcement, it is to everyone else too.”

When lockdown arrived his hostelries adapted by offering takeaways but soon had to close, with all 300 staff furloughed. But while the pumps were covered Philip’s pubs remained at the heart of their communities, joining the effort to support NHS staff.

He says: “I had empty kitchens and people doing nothing, which is very hard on them. People need a direction, a reason to get up. I wanted to keep them engaged with what they did best.”

Inspired by the Food4Heroes drive to feed tired and hungry NHS staff, Philip set up a charitable trust, Giving Tree, organised a team to make meals and appealed to local suppliers with the aim of providing 10,000 meals across East Anglia.

It started out with one kitchen staffed by two chef brothers, Lewis and Jordan Ryan, as the hub of operations. As it happened, their mother was a nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, so they were feeding her daily. But the enterprise soon got bigger.

Philip says: “It was volunteer-driven and it grew and grew. Those who were involved early on shared their enthusiasm and others wanted to be part of it.”

Giving Tree hit its 10,000-meal target on May 25 and has kept going. It’s now providing food for hospitals, care homes and hospices, as well as for self-isolating individuals and disadvantaged families.

Philip adds: “The gratitude has been heartening. We’ve received so many cards, letters and posts on social media. It’s been thoroughly rewarding and we’ve learned so much. We have a better understanding of the role a pub can play as a community asset.”

Now Philip’s chain is busy preparing to open for business in a way that’s safe for both employees and customers. A survey he sent out to more than 2,000 customers received an overwhelmingly positive response.

He says: “I’m optimistic for the sector but there will be change. It cannot expect to behave and trade as it was pre-lockdown. But people have seen what we’ve done and they know that we will take it very seriously. Our properties will be clean. We will be following regulations to the letter. In the end, people will support businesses they trust.”

Philip’s staff are busy learning all the guidelines to ensure that they reopen as safely as possible. And independent chains such as his will be relying on their suppliers to move quickly and safely to restock cellars, shelves and fridges.

One distiller used to supplying pubs is Moses Odong, founder of Taxi Spirit Co and producer of London’s first white rum.

Moses, originally a taxi driver by trade, spent several years studying distilling part-time. When his Cabby’s Rum, made with blackstrap molasses, debuted in 2018 it won ten awards within months of launch. With the help of partner Bianca he was soon selling it to independent pub chains across London. But as business was taking off, lockdown hit.

Bianca says: “The distillery has been a rollercoaster from the start. It’s been hard, enjoyable and rewarding but the lockdown was terrible. It was devastating.”

Moses switched to making hand sanitiser – dubbed, of course, Cabby’s Hand Rub – and produced 5,000 bottles of the stuff, all delivered free to local care homes and hospices around London.

He says: “Every spare moment, I’d jump in my cab and make another delivery.”

Now with pubs and restaurants reopening, Taxi Spirit’s stills are producing rum once more and Moses plans to launch a new label, Cabby’s Black Spice Rum, within weeks.

He adds: “Yes, pubs are open. But we all have to be careful how we behave and observe the rules. We need to watch hygiene at all times and wear masks out and about. We have to be strong and hopeful and make this work. And it’s important that those in the drinks industry look out for one another. Everyone support one another, and we’ll get through.”

To read about more inspiring GREAT stories visit greatbritaincampaign.com/inspirations

 

Source: Read Full Article