Words: Paul Chapman Images: The Crafty Dog
It’s three and half years now since we opened,” says Neil. “At the time we had no idea that out of that period we’d spend 18 months with the doors closed. If we knew, we’d still do it. I feel a bit surprised to hear myself saying that but running my own pub has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it makes me smile every time I walk through the door.”
When lockdown hit Neil and Andrew had no option other than to furlough their staff and shut the doors. They had recently created boutique hotel rooms above the bar, and these remained empty, just like the seats in the pub.
“At the very start was Mother’s Day and we had produce purchased and ready for Sunday,” says Andrew. “We took the decision to offer a collection service for everyone who’d booked a place and we had a busy time getting everything out to ensure things weren’t wasted. This was the last time we opened until the summer.”
The pair lost a few key members of staff before reopening and assumed finding replacements wouldn’t be an issue, after all, bar work is the natural progression for many people studying or looking for part time work. “We advertised and the response was really poor, we lined up numerous interviews but only a handful of people showed up. It was really worrying,” explains Neil. “We are suddenly competing with worldwide names paying cash incentives to people who move into areas near their warehouses and the supply of young workers that fed the hospitality industry has all but dried up.”
“I know it’s not just us that are experiencing these issues, many other pubs and hotels are finding it hard to source the right people. This week things have changed, and we’ve been able to bring some great new people into the team and we’re over the initial panic, but it hasn't been easy.”
“Another issue we face is how people celebrate, it’s too easy to pop a ‘congrats’ on social media, the change in culture the various lockdowns have created is impacting us all. People simply aren’t meeting at the local to ‘wet the baby’s head’, celebrate a birthday or whatever event they’d call in for,” says Neil. “People are staying in, takeaways have changed from just one a week to three or four in some cases, and these are delivered to your door. Many of these people previously called into our local pubs, restaurants and cafes.”
To adapt the pair are making changes to their menus so they too can offer a home delivery service. “We have a great changing menu but some of the choices aren’t right for home delivery so we’re refining things and developing a menu choice that will work for the diners in the pub and also those at home who want a Craft pizza or burger. We are also doing Sunday Dinner takeaways, so give it a go and save on the washing up.”
"Another issue we face is how people celebrate, it’s too easy to pop a ‘congrats’ on social media,"
Neil is keen to see the hostelries along Chatsworth Road and around Brampton pull together. He mentioned the Brampton Mile and how people used to come to the road as a location, known for great pubs. “We have some fantastic neighbours along Chatsworth Road, there has been a change in the quality of offering along the road over the last few years, each venue is different and each has its own loyal following, but we need to shout louder and bring in new customers to enjoy what we have to offer,” says Neil.
“COVID has made us realise how much we’ll need to change our offer over time. We have some ideas about how we can support the pubs around us, and we’ll be opening discussions with them to see what we can do.
“We really do feel the next six months will be a testing time for our local independent businesses, hopefully, the summer will see us all back on track, fingers crossed for a busy festive season.
“We love craft beer, we love local people, we love the community we’re in and we look forward to seeing you for a pint or a meal at some point soon.”
Christmas is just a few weeks away and it’s the perfect time to drop into one of the many pubs and restaurants across town. A significant number of new venues have recently opened, we are spoilt for choice, so make a plan and call into one you’ve not tried. I’ve made a list and pinned it on my iMac, I’ll be trying as many as I can and putting my money back into the local economy. Would be great to see you there too!
The Crafty Dog, 261 Chatsworth Road S40 2BL