As many people will have seen from National and Local TV News, local pub group, Oakman Inns, has not been idle during the pandemic lock-down. Their senior management has been providing the Government with advice and guidance on a safe reopening.
Last month, for example, they modified two of their pubs, the Betsey Wynne in Swanbourne, Bucks, and its founding restaurant, The Akeman in Tring, Herts, to demonstrate how a post-pandemic pub-restaurant might operate safely.
During the lockdown, the manager of the Cherry Tree in Olney, Milton Keynes, was one of the group's pubs cooking up a storm with takeaway profits going to local charities.
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On 23rd June, the Prime Minister confirmed that all pubs and restaurants can reopen on Saturday July 4th with social distancing reduced to one metre plus and subject to many of the stringent safety measures recommended by the pub company.
Oakman Inns’ CEO, Peter Borg-Neal, said: “There is substantial public enthusiasm for us to reopen but as we have already taken over 4,500 bookings for July 4th with two of our 28 pubs already fully booked, we are urging customers to book in advance. We have taken the decision that guests will need to be seated to be served whether they are coming for a drink or a meal. Of course, reduced capacity will impact on us as a business, but that also allows us to focus on ensuring that all the safety measures for our guests and staff are in place. We will also be looking to take advantage of using pavements for additional outdoor seating, where Councils allow.”
Once on the premises, (whether booked inside or in the garden) safety measures will include one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations, disposable menus and glazed screens between tables. There will also be staff guiding guests on social distancing, preventing movement between tables and controlling toilet access. To reduce contact with waiting staff, guests are being encouraged to download Oakman Inns’ new ‘Order & Pay’ App before they arrive so that they can order food and drinks from their phone without leaving their table. The Oakman App which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play also allows guests to find their nearest Oakman Inn.
The group’s Chef Director, Ross Pike, has also been busy redesigning menus and kitchen workflows so that a safe environment can be maintained with required physical distancing enforced between the chefs.
“Unfortunately, a couple of old favourites weren’t possible to keep on our menu,” Ross commented.
“But our newly designed Spring/Summer menu maintains our focus on offering healthy, freshly prepared, sustainably sourced dishes with a Mediterranean emphasis. Our popular hand-crafted Neapolitan wood-fired Pizzas using our unique pizza dough recipe as well as favourites from the Josper grill will still be available. In addition, I’m very excited about introducing some regional Italian pasta recipes together with some new vegetarian and vegan options. We hope this means that friends, family and every combination of household and food preferences can enjoy a truly delicious meal together."
Peter Borg-Neal added: “We now need to get on with rebuilding our pub group, retrain and take care of our 1,000 staff, support our suppliers and communities and continue to look out for all our friends and neighbours. Apart from our reopening, my greatest delight, is that two households can meet inside or outside. It will be part of the normalisation process that will help bring the country back together, as families, friends and neighbours are able to meet up outside their homes and also celebrate birthdays and anniversaries that have been on hold.”
OAKMAN RUNS THE FOLLOWING VENUES IN OUR AREAS:
White Hart, Ampthill
Beech House, Amersham
Beech House, Beaconsfield
Cherry Tree, Olney
The Akeman Inn, Kingswood
Betsey Wynne, Swanbourne
The Polecat Inn, Prestwood
King’s Arms, Berkhamsted
Banyers House, Royston
Beech House, St Albans
The Red Lion, Water End
The Akeman, Tring
The Navigation at Thrupp Wharf, Cosgrove
The Crown & Thistle, Abingdon
The Old Post Office, Wallingford
Blue Boar, Witney
The Globe, Warwick
The Four Alls, Welford-on-Avon