The traditional British pub is transforming into a digital office to beat the COVID-19 slump in trade

  • British pubs are offering hot-desking packages to people working from home to beat the COVID-19 slump in trade.
  • The deals include a table to work on, a steady internet connection, as well as food and hot drinks.
  • One pub owner told Business Insider the recent 10 pm curfew — implemented by the government to curb the second wave of COVID-19 cases — has "seriously affected" their turnover.
  • "During the current circumstances, every hour of trading it crucial to the survival of pubs," a spokesperson for the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) told Business Insider.
  • The industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, with a recent survey showing one in eight hospitality staff has already been made redundant in the country.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

British pubs are doubling up as an office space for people looking to break away from working at home as the industry continues to struggle amid the pandemic.

More than a dozen pubs have been offering hot-desking packages on social media, which include a table to work on, a steady internet connection, as well as food and hot drinks.

"We're hoping that the initiative will allow people to actually be within the hustle and bustle again and not go insane by staring at the same four walls," Jenny Hutchinson, who manages The Culcheth Arms pub in the northwestern town of Warrington, told Business Insider.

The pub offers a hot-desking package where people can pay £12 ($15) a day for unlimited Americano coffee or tea, internet connection, and a meal. 

Hutchinson said that even though they already allowed people to work in the pub in pre-COVID time, the latest initiative feels a lot more important.

Describing it as a "win-win" situation, the pub manager said the initiative allows those who have been working from home to "get back out into the community" while also helping pubs "get people through the door" in a time that has proven extremely difficult for the industry.

"Our business after COVID was very good. We had adapted to the restrictions but still managed to keep our business busy and a safe place to be in. However, the 10 pm curfew this has seriously affected our turnover, and if continued, it will have a serious effect on not just our pub but the hospitality industry too," she said.

 

Craig Leith, who co-owns the Farmers Arms pub in Goldcliffe, in Wales, told a local paper on Thursday that he's been inundated with messages ever since proposing the new idea on their Facebook page.

"We've had a huge response to this, with bookings coming in thick and fast," Leith said, according to South Wales Argus. "We are in survival mode and have to adapt to every situation."

The initiative comes two weeks after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a 10 pm curfew on bars, pubs, and restaurants across the country to stop the second wave of coronavirus infections.

"This is the moment when we must act," Johnson said on September 22, as he announced additional measures for the industry, including a £200 ($256) fine for waiters who don't wear masks, according to NBC News.

"I am sorry this will hurt many businesses just getting back on their feet," he added. 

The UK recorded more than 13,800 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with hotspots emerging in northern and eastern regions of the country, according to the government's health tracking website.

According to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University, more than half a million people have so far fallen sick with COVID-19 in the country, and 42,700 people have died.

Industry bodies have described the new curfew as "another crushing blow" that will "devastate" the sector well into 2021, Business Insider reported previously. 

"During the current circumstances every hour of trading it crucial to the survival of pubs," a spokesperson for the British Beer and Pubs Association told Business Insider.

"Pubs are the heart of our communities and brewing in Britain is a key part of our heritage. Losing them would be a major loss to our culture and national identity that cannot be allowed to happen," the spokesperson added.

A survey by market research company CGA shows one in eight hospitality staff has already been made redundant in the UK. 

However, some pubs might have to shut sooner than later.

According to a BBC report, the UK government is expected to announce a three-tier system for local lockdowns next week, including closing pubs and restaurants in the northern regions of England and the Midlands.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a local furlough scheme for workers in pubs, restaurants, and other businesses on Friday, including paying cash grants to companies forced to close in local lockdowns.

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