“Hospitality would have been one of those forgotten sectors had it not been for Greene King.”
The Drumming Snipe in Mayford, Surrey, is a beautiful pub in the heart of England’s home counties. This leafy lifestyle attracted James Lyon Shaw, and business partner Jamie, away from the concrete city life, having worked together in London. Both have a strong food background; the Drumming Snipe is an elegant pub with beautiful surroundings offering diners a truly exquisite Surrey experience.
“I come from a food background; I am an experienced chef by trade. So, it was inevitable that our pubs, we have two with Greene King, were going to have a solid food offering.” Not long after settling in and starting to build up trade, however, Covid-19 arrived in the UK, and whilst preparing for the worst, news came very quickly that lockdown was happening, almost overnight.
“I was skiing on holiday when we suddenly realised that this was becoming pretty serious. We were getting small amounts of information from back home, but I think we underestimated the impact it was already having. When we got on the plane, we were the only two on the flight. At that point, we knew it was serious.” James tells us.
“We were already preparing; we had planned for the pub to be closed for a few weeks we thought we were all set”.
However, like most businesses all over the country, the weeks of lockdown continued, and concerns began to grow. But, almost immediately, communications began to arrive from Greene King directly and through the Business Development Manager team.
“At first, the communications were all about rent concessions, which as you can imagine, was at the top of all our concerns. It could have been curtains for our business, otherwise.” Greene King offered the tenants a 90% rent concession, which certainly put James and Jamie’s mind at rest. However, it was a lifeline to the businessmen, who employ staff across two sites with Greene King and have businesses elsewhere.
James says: “Greene King were great. Right from the start. Not just with rent concessions, but also crediting beer that we returned or wasted too, giving us credit when we would finally be open once again.”
As time went on, support came in different ways as the communication from Greene King continued. James and the team used one of the two pubs they operate to create a community hub that offered food for the vulnerable, a partnership with a local homeless charity and support for anyone that need it. “It kept everyone busy and gave them a purpose”, James admits, keeping occupied was required.
Alongside consistent communication from the company on financial support and government announcements, James was most impressed how Greene King seemed to understand the needs of the people on the ground. For example, mental health support soon arrived after regular communications began. In addition, staff and licensee training courses were offered for free, which kept the staff up to date with their knowledge and remember their training.
“In lockdown one, it was all about saving yourself really – getting through the crisis and keeping your head above water”, James recalls. But by lockdown two, everyone had become used to the situation, knew what to expect, but the loneliness, isolation and loss of freedoms started to affect everyone, even the licensees. “By lockdown two, the community had become emotive, and we were all living with a different epidemic, our mental health. The support Greene King had already offered suddenly became essential for our team.”
“It wasn’t the delivery of the message that was the most impressive, but the way it was delivered”. James recalls that he often thought, ‘before you realised you needed it, the information was in your inbox or on the portal’.
When asked what had impressed him most about Greene King communications, it was the clear, concise, and open messages about the additions or changing of restrictions. But also, how “Hospitality would have been one of those forgotten sectors had it not been for Greene King. They lobbied the government in support of us, their team.” he said. “We always knew they had our backs; the same can’t be said of many companies in this crisis.”
In October 2020, following the changes of restrictions in England and the ongoing promise of a fantastic Christmas, James and his team prepared by purchasing and erecting stretch tents in the outdoor area. For a pub with a high-quality food offering, James felt it essential to prepare for longer-term outdoor dining to ensure his clientele, who were all still getting to know the new tenants, had a comfortable, warm, and cosy environment in which to dine. Alfresco dining at this pub took on a new level, as the patrons were kitted out with blankets, warm external lighting, and gas heaters to keep them comfortable.
“We didn’t use them too much in 2020, but they came in handy in April,” James said of restrictions lifting. “Our customers enjoyed the tents, and they are still up and being used now”. James managed to open to incredible booking numbers. Being outside always presented concerns, but on cold and windy days (we had many in April), the team would call and check if bookings were still happy to attend. Jokingly, he said: “We told them to bring a duvet, and they did”.
The support did not end there for James, or other Greene King tenants, as the company kept ongoing support in place whilst the teams were still under restrictions. With some pubs still unable to open, ongoing rent concessions remain in place, including for tenants in the devolved nations with varying different restrictions.
“I said it before; if it hadn’t been for the support, it would have been curtains for our business.”
Thanks to the support from Greene King and the perseverance of his team - assisted by the lifting of restrictions in England - food is once again being served. The joint pub team now look forward to further restrictions being lifted soon.