Eat Out to Help Out
As each month ends at the moment, it’s important to reflect on another period of change at the deli. August has been another challenging month, but this time for completely different reasons. Summer in Winchester is usually a quieter time for our trade, with many regulars off on their summer holidays and not in their usual routine. When Rishi Sunak announced the Eat out to Help out scheme in July, I was originally sceptical as to how it would work. It almost sounded too good to be true! I was worried about the process of reclaiming the discounted money and how quickly it would be transferred into my account. On a personal level though, I was excited to go and try some places I hadn’t been to before!
To add more unpredictability, it’s been a month of extreme weather conditions - we quickly forgot the 32 degrees heat that we faced at the beginning of the month, and trust me, it felt a lot hotter than that in the kitchen! We also have had 50mph winds, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding. Luckily the deli wasn't affected by floods, but we did have some leaking through the ceiling.
We are really impacted by weather conditions, and it can make it very difficult to predict how much food to prepare, as we make everything from scratch in the morning. August was also challenging as we waited for new staff to join us, and the rest of us rallied round working hard, waiting for our team to once again be full. So, at the end of the second week, when we were having queues out the door continuously, running out of table space and quickly having to top up salads, toasties and cakes until we literally ran out of food; we realised what an impact the scheme was going to have for us in August.
I’ve read various articles online suggesting that the scheme had turned people into demanding, annoying and argumentative customers; when tables were not available and food was delayed. We can only comment on our experience at the deli, where we have a huge, loyal and lovely customer base, so we are lucky not to have seen this. I have, however, felt the pressure of the scheme on my staff and our abilities to cope with the demand. It has roughly tripled our usual daily trade take on Mon - Wed; happening pretty much overnight where we’ve still had to be so careful on staffing costs, food costs and our cash flow. The week was suddenly flipped, with us quickly nicknaming it starting with ‘Monday madness’ and we just didn’t have time for us to plan for it or reflect in some of our resources, so we’ve definitely been powering through on adrenaline!
With so many people ‘stay-cationing’ and holidays being cancelled, it has been a very unexpected and amazing August, we’re definitely not complaining about how it turned out. But with some of us still not having had a holiday since Christmas, we’re looking forward to September and getting some time off. And who knows what September will bring, we are still literally taking it day by day with very little pattern emerging!