We are now stumbling through our 7th week of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we thought we would share with you some of our thoughts and feelings regarding recent events.
It has taken a while to put this madness into words, not just due to the emotions involved but with the immediate challenges that the enforced closure laid at our feet.
Whilst we will bring up the disappointments, negatives and the frustrations that the closure has brought we just wanted to strongly re-iterate that in light of the health issues we face during the COVID-19 pandemic we whole heartedly agreed it was for the best and absolutely the right decision from the government to make. Protecting the NHS and the health of the general public comes before anything.
I know most of you will know the Appleby Inn Hotel is a family owned and run establishment and has been since the day my family arrived here from Blackpool in 1986. Having cut our teeth in catering running a guest house/hotel in Blackpool the decision was made to move back to the midlands, where we originated, in 1986. Since arriving in Appleby Parva the changes to the Appleby Inn have been enormous. All planned and completed by the family it has made our connection with the business very personal. The pride we take in our journey starting out from a village pub to a 29 bedroom hotel, restaurant and function venue is immeasurable, the admiration for my Dad as I watched him turn the Appleby Inn into such reputable, busy venue can’t be done justice in a blog!
On a personal level the Appleby is all I have ever really known work wise. As a young child I remember sitting on planks of wood watching my dad, grandad and uncle wallpaper what is now the Adelaide Suite. I remember the buzz of atmosphere in the bar and restaurant exciting me when I sat with my grandparents as the place bustled around us. Catering is in my blood and there was never anything else I thought of doing. As a young adult I worked part time whilst at school and despite my family placing high importance and insistence on focusing on my education until the last minute, it was already ingrained in my mind what I planned to do for my career. I felt like I had trained for it all my life from helping granddad with odd jobs on building sites as we extended, to cooking with my Nan, who was the best cook I have ever encountered and what I would call a natural caterer, everything she did was effortless. I even bottled up on Saturday mornings as soon as I was strong enough to carry the beer crates. Little did I know I was absorbing all the required skills. All of this and a solid “work your way up” ethos from my dad has gradually taken me to the point of managing the business under my dads guidance. To be part of the family business and to continue to grow it and build on the foundations laid by my dad and grandparents is an absolute honour.
On the 21st of March when the prime minister announced the enclosure my heart dropped to the floor. I couldn’t get any words out let alone think, it felt like a whole lives work had been shelved. An emotional conversation with my dad led us to agreeing we need to deal with the finer details once the emotion had subsided, the ensuing scramble on Monday was nothing like I ever dealt with. Exploring how to implement furlough to ensure the staff’s livelihoods with limited information of how it will work along with the cancellation of tables, rooms and functions led to a very intense day. The week ahead was to ensure that financially we made sure there would be an Appleby Inn at the end of this. That challenge still rolls on weekly.
The evening of the 21st as we closed the door I struggled to leave the building, it felt so final. It’s more than just a business to us. It was our home. We held my sisters wedding reception there. My Nan’s wake was there. Everything the Appleby stands for has been moulded by my family. We have had staff weddings, generations of families working here and I feel the staff over the years have shared a feel of belonging the same way I have and we endeavour to try and make that the case for everyone involved with working here. I saw the strong bond my Dad created with employees and have continued this during my management. Regulars had lost a venue that was more than just a restaurant, staff friendship and customer bond had all been stopped abruptly. Some of the conversations I have had with customers since closure has moved me greatly with the warmth and support everyone has directed our way.
When the lockdown eases we face another mammoth task. We need to ensure safety of staff and customers and also try to bring some of that Appleby warmth back to a venue that might have changed out of necessity. Social distancing will turn restaurants into more formulaic venues and add a little bit of rigidness and a more of a robotic feel to establishments. Life is going to be very different in all aspects. Whilst I have just eluded to the way atmosphere might be affected in restaurants it will also change the very things I feel give us such happiness. Living is giving your extended family a hug when you see them after absence, cheering a goal at football match, the togetherness of fans at a gig. All of this will not be possible for what could be a long time. So whilst we adjust we need to keep extending some of that kindness that has blossomed in communities. We continue to plan, plot and second guess as to the best way to work towards coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and also get the wheels of our business turning again. We are under no illusions the challenges ahead will be very different to anything we have dealt with before. We have seen off recessions, fires, rebuilds and business restructure, COVID-19 poses a new set of obstacles. We need to make sure we secure staff’s livelihoods, and safety along with that of the customer whilst still opening a venue that continues to be a favourite of yours and has that “Appleby feel” to it. We have already made some improvements that were scheduled before lockdown and have some exciting plans for our menus and cocktail menus. Bear with us whilst we make sure we bounce back as best and as safely as possible, and we will keep you informed regularly, we can’t wait to see you all again!
We also want to express our thanks to all they key workers and the wonderful staff in the NHS bravely putting themselves on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime you guys stay safe and be kind.