Pub firm starts own Eat Out to Help Out to avoid 'brutal' downturn in trade
- Credit: Sonya Duncan/Sarah Lucy Brown
A pub company that suffered around 1,000 cancellations in December at its flagship venue is running an "extremely generous" 50% discount to stimulate footfall.
Gusto Pronto, which runs five pubs in west Suffolk, saw turnover drop by about 30% last month due to Covid-related challenges.
The One Bull in the centre of Bury St Edmunds lost just shy of 1,000 bookings in December as Christmas parties got cancelled, said Gusto Pronto's director David Marjoram.
In a nod to the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, Gusto Pronto is offering its own Eat Out to Help Out with 50% off food (£10 maximum discount per person) on Tuesdays or Wednesdays in January.
It applies to its food pubs: The One Bull, the Cadogan at Ingham, the Crown at Hartest and the Fox at Bulmer Tye, near Sudbury.
Mr Majoram said they had never done anything like this before - apart from signing up to the government's Eat Out to Help Out - but these were "exceptional circumstances".
Mr Marjoram said: "It was working out whether there was a way to stimulate some footfall and get people wanting to come out. The offer is extremely generous.
"From a profit point of view at the pubs, we won't be making money on the back of this scheme, but we were just really keen to get people coming out and keeping the team busy and keeping the chains between our suppliers active.
"Ultimately, if we are going to lose out in January and February anyway, I would much rather do it with customers through the door eating and drinking in our pubs.
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"It's the best chance we have to be in good shape for the spring when there's a chance of normality again."
He said the scheme was not about chasing lost profit from December, but more about enticing people in during the quiet months of January and February.
Historically, December pays for January and February, and a real concern is whether the early part of the year also sees a downturn - something Mr Marjoram said would be "really brutal".
But he said the company was "pretty resilient" being well established and with a loyal customer base.
Speaking of recent government support for the hospitality industry, Mr Marjoram said: "All the chancellor has done this time is a fairly small sticking plaster that will not see the industry through the next couple of months."
He said he didn't blame customers for not coming out in December, adding they "had to do the right thing".
Mr Marjoram said so far Gusto Pronto's Eat Out to Help Out was "doing the job we want in encouraging people to come out in the gloom".
Gusto Pronto, which has about 100 staff, also has a micro-brewery sister company called Brewshed.
In contrast, real ale pub Oakes Barn, also in Bury St Edmunds, said they enjoyed "very, very good" festive trade.