Dave Skinner landlord of the renowned Lamb Inn at West Wittering south of Chichester, said that lots of pub staff across the land have been ‘swiped by the likes of Amazon’ and it will be a tough job getting them to return.
“Recruitment is currently the biggest challenge I have known since I became a pub landlord,” he said. “Every advert I have put up has produced one or two responses and no-one has shown up.
“So I am focused as I always have been on looking after my guys and making sure that they want to stay here. There’s lots of interpub poaching going on. So it’s really tough for the industry and attracting people back into it isn’t going to be easy.”
Winning back customers is less of a problem in the short-term.
The Lamb boasts a terrific garden which Dave has weather-proofed with up to two stunning marquees bought on e-bay and comprehensive heating.
He’s invested in a smoker too in the past year to ensure the food isn’t simply excellent - but it is consistently so.
With the emphasis on staycations, West Wittering should see a continued huge demand for tables throughout the summer - but Dave believes that the autumn will be trickier. So like other pubs he is already planning ahead.
“Come the winter nights people are going to remember being at home and having their big gin and tonics so we have got to work on events. We are going to bring back our quiz nights and be as alfresco as possible.
“We want to do something with Oktoberfest - hopefully closing off half the car park, putting out the big Munich beer tables, and providing live music - live music has been amazing for us.
“We are also looking at Freedom Week in July when we can open up fully and we are looking at doing a village fete event in the car park where we will really work on the feel of Wimbledon.”
A big screen for the Euros will help people to remember how to celebrate and how to be in a pub.
But even with customers there are challenges and changes.
The fad of trying a different gin every time has abated during lockdown. The great cider rush is a distant memory. Now the demand is for traditional beer and their Hall and Woodhouse supplies are flying out the pumps.
Dave is optimistic about the future. The Lamb has a terrific reputation and ensuring there is a great customer experience is central to everything he does.
And he talks with passion and enthusiasm about the year ahead - of ensuring people are reminded of the dangers of drink driving and providing new ways of getting to the pub: by bike, perhaps by minibus, maybe incentivised to leave their car overnight in the car park.
Then he mentions opening another venture to grow the business once again.
It’s exactly the attitude the Sussex economy needs and we’ll raise a glass to that.
If you have a pub or restaurant in Chichester and want to share with our readers the challenges and opportunities ahead please e-mail us at [email protected]