Understanding that the impact of the coronavirus on our industry is real and wide-ranging, we have put together a few suggestions of steps that you can take to help protect your business in these tough times. A lot of these will be obvious, but hopefully there are one or two points here that you will find helpful.
Ensuring that your business is sustainable is key to weathering this storm.
We have broken this out into five sections:
British pubs and inns are at the heart of the local community and our national culture. We have seen innumerable examples over the years of our pubs and inns supporting, and being supported by, the local communities. We believe this is no exception and have heard some fantastic stories from our Collection of communities rallying around their local inns over the weekend.
As ever, we believe in the power of our community, so if you have any suggestions then please share them with us and we will pass them on to our Collection.
And if you would like to discuss any of the below, please get in contact with us and we can try and help.
The below was updated on 16 March following the government's announcement of 17:00 hours on 16 March 2020 whereby the government has asked the nation to "avoid unnecessary social contact" and to "avoid confined spaces" including pubs and restaurants.
Updated financial section on 17 March with details of HMRC's coronavirus helpline and with outline information from the government's announcement of 17:00 hours on 17 March 2020.
Updated financial section on 20 March with details of government's announcement on 20 March 2020, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Schee and immediate loan availability.
We have set up a Facebook group for our Collection which you should all have been invited to. If not, please let us know.
If you missed it, click the link below for an overview of ways in which we can help.
The government's financial support package of contributing 80% of employees' wages who are not working and retained, up to £2,500, will come as a huge relief to maintain the livelihood of teams and ensure that you are able to re-open with immediate effect when safe to do so.
We are looking at ways to help place volunteers/employees who need to earn more with organisations in need - find out more here.
Reduced footfall and revenue could see you having too many employees for your business need, or too high costs for your turnover. Given the financial support being offered from the government, we hope that any lay-offs, redundancies or teminations will not be required to the extent they may have been before this announcement.
... or a spade.
Use this time to invest in your site so that you are well poised for any upside:
Use the time to up-skill your employees, improve knowledge of your wine list or get some more qualifications.
A quiet site means time to train your team, learn some new skills and get ready to maximise future revenue, or complete any outstanding training.
Whilst we are seeing a tough time, other industries are looking for more resource. For example supermarkets cannot stock shelves fast enough, delivery companies are seeing an increase in demand.
If there are local businesses who are in need of support, opening up a conversation on behalf of your employees may solve a lot of problems.
We have commenced discussions on how we can use the surplus of labout in our industry to off-set the huge shortage of labour in a number of sectors - food producers, logistics firms, healthcare and supermarkets initially spring to mind. We are working on how to match surplus labour to the shortage and will update you accordingly.
This clearly has a financial benefit as well as the much-needed one of national support.
Look at which suppliers are absolutely necessary, and consider which suppliers you may need to switch off if you have to temporarily close.
We are sure that you have been, but work through your stock and ensure that you only have the amount that you need.
Consider the following, and remember everyone will be open to a conversation:
Consider reducing marketing and PR spend, whether consultancies, paid social or adwords, or any other fixed costs. Instead, look at free to use alternatives, and consider investing time in some marketing training.
The government's announced shutdown of all pubs and inns, and the enhanced lock-down means that anything that you do as a business requires full compliance with the government's guidelines and looking after everyone's health and safety and done in an appropriate way to minimise face-to-face interactions and ensure appropriate social distancing.
People will get bored of cooking at home. Turning your food into great takeaway dishes could be a saviour to your local community!
You don't need a pizza oven. Classics from your menu, or some newly designed favourites, to serve as takeaway dishes could even be a long-term venture.
If you have the staff, why not also offer a delivery service?
In terms of regulations, you will need to ensure that your HACCP procedures are updated, your licences allow for off-sales (particularly alcohol) and you take the necessary precautions on health and safety, particularly for deliveries. You should also ensure that your insurance provider is notified of any change and that you are covered. It would be good practice to update your licensing details.
If your site is shut as a public house and this is more than a short-term measure, technically you may need to apply for a (temporary) change of use from your local authority - although one to discuss with them and, we would suggest, ask them to take a pragmatic view.
Design a menu, providing a set of ingredients and some cooking instructions and let your locals cook some dishes off your menu at home.
Consider also doing a virtual cook-along or demonstration to promote interaction and socialising.
Again, this would require an update to your HACCP and you should notify your insurance provider.
If you have a strong supply chain (including local suppliers), help you local community by on-selling your produce into the community - what can you get that nobody else can? How can you work with local farmers and producers?
Full detail of the government's support packages for businesses can be found here.
The clear message is that the government wants to support businesses, jobs and individuals. The support package announced to-date (20 March) is as follows:
Speak to your bank as soon as possible to discuss repayment holidays, covenant concessions or additional support they may be able to give you.
On 17 March, the government announced that insurance policies with pandemic coverage would apply to the measures taken by the government (and that the measures taken amount to "enforced closures"). You should therefore speak to your insurance broker or insurance company (and double check your policy yourself!).
The applicability of business interruption insurance for our industry for this situation is not positive on the face of it. We have been speaking to insurance brokers, insurance companies and lawyers to navigate a path to getting our insurance companies to pay.
The consensus is that industry pressure is likely to be the key to unlocking this - and with most insurance policies in our industry being standard, something that will have a huge benefit for all of us.
If you have had not luck with your insurance company, please complete this form and we will add you to our list and see what can be done to help. We are not promising anything, but hopefully we will have more power as a collective.
The government has already asked banks to provide loans on standard commercial rates. This is far from ideal, but would provide some form of financial support should it be needed.
As we await the delivery of the government's financial support, a number of private operators are stepping in to help, we have been looking into immediate options for you.
We have been negotiating with a merchant services provider as part of our upcoming Inn Club to provide lower card processing costs. To support your businesses in the short term, they have set up a loan facility that gets repaid out as a fixed percentage of your credit and debit card takings, meaning you only repay when you take payments.
They have agreed to open this up to our Collection and not require you transfer to them as a payment provider.
This does not look to be the cheapest loan, but could be a valuable source of immediate cash that only requires payment when you become revenue generating.
For more information, please contact Tim Martin on 07926 804 020 or email@example.com, quoting "Epicurean Collection".
Business rates reliefs now extend to all businesses for up to 12 months.
Proactively manage your cash flow by working through payment terms and discuss at an early stage any potential issues you may have with meeting payment deadlines to seek to extend these.
HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs.
Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke 'Time to Pay' arrangement.
HMRC Coronavirus Helpline
Telephone: 0800 015 9559
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 8am to 4pm
Grant Thornton and Diageo and offering a free support helpline for pub owners and operators.
The Publican Support Helpline provides information to licensed business owners looking to access the commercial measures announced by the government. The phone line, 0207 728 2556, is free to call, or alternatively you can enquire via email at Publican.Support@uk.gt.com.
We have already outlined ways to invest in your site (a lick of paint, improve your garden, a deep clean, those odd jobs...) and your team (training, up-skilling, the best coffee around...), but here are a few other ways.
Get ahead of food and drinks trends.
If you are running down your stock, why not look to reinvigorate your offering. Take some of the trends out of London and grow your offering of small plates, vegetarian and vegan dishes; bring in a wider range of soft drinks or low- or no-alcohol alternatives.
Take a marketing course, take some photos and get creative to begin marketing your site to get it ahead of the competition.
HACCP plans, policies, contracts... these are all things that we don't have time for on a day-to-day basis.
Use the time and develop some ideas for Experiences around your site and send them on to us so that we can make them a reality.
Review all of your suppliers, from food and beverage to lines through to utilities. There may well be able to renegotiate on a lot of your contracts - businesses across our industry will be incentivised to help, not wanting to lose it on custom in too great a volume. Consider putting in place a property management system if you don't have one so that you can have live bookings on your rooms to maximise future sales, or bring in new drinks suppliers offering a wide range of support packages.