As the country starts emerging from three months in lockdown, we ask some of Devon’s hospitality and food producers, what life has been like. The second mini interview of this series, we chat with General Manager, Luke Fearon.
The Bearslake Inn is a surrounded by the wild hills of West Dartmoor. Close enough to the Cornish border, the hills of Bodmin Moor can be seen in the distance from this historic establishment; it is a favourite with visitors, walkers and locals alike. The oldest parts of the Inn are dated from the 13th Century, having been built as a traditional Devon longhouse.
We visited The Bearslake Inn as prize winners to a Devon Food Movement pop-up event in partnership with Charles Steevenson Wines a couple of years ago; we loved the ambiance and the food was really top league stuff. They also provide sumptuous comfortable accommodation, perfect for tourists and those wishing to explore the area.
Since we visited, Chef Luke Fearon, previously the founder of Devon Food Movement, has taken the reigns of GM, and is now part of the team. Luke was Head Chef at the famous Treby Arms before starting the highly successful Devon Food Movement – Bearslake Inn was one of the places that hosted DFM events, so it feels fitting that he is now here permanently.
1. What is the name of your business, and what do you?
Bearslake Inn – General Manager
2. How long have you been in business?
I have been working with the company as a consultant for the last year and a half, and have been full time as the General Manager since September 2019.
3. The last few months have been unprecedented, as we are reminded often, can you take me through what it was like for you when lockdown was announced?
I think when Lockdown was announced it was a total shock to most people in the Hospitality industry. Working long hours, you rarely get time to stop and take stock of the wider outside world and Covid-19 seemed to come from nowhere.
It hit our business hard and with little warning and advice from the government, we all watched the TV as one day we were open and the next we were closed. The first few weeks we were running around making temporary arrangements and I don’t think anyone expected the Lockdown to last as long as it did or the implications and effects to be as far reaching as they were.
4. How did your customers respond to begin with?
Initially we saw the customer level drop significantly overnight. At a time when our trade would have been building towards the bank holidays and summer trade around the corner we were faced with staff standing around and little else to but clean and stay positive.
When we were no longer allowed to have customers in our building we started to run a successful food collection box and the Bearslake Chippy but as soon as Lockdown began in full we realised that due to our remote location it wouldn’t be viable or responsible for our staff to continue to run this system, so we ceased trading for almost two months.
Towards the end of Lockdown we realised that the demand for the chippy was once again there and that we could again safely deliver this takeaway collection service. In fact this has been so popular that we will now build it into our business model and continue to deliver this service going forward.
5. Moving forward post-lockdown, do you see your business changing long-term, and if so, how do you think it will change?
Everyone discusses a return to normal but I honestly can’t see it. I think this is the new normal. Some things may be relaxed in due course but I think we have some big social changes now that will begin to redefine the way we live and make decisions as a society.
For us as a hospitality business I think we will see a lot of other, smaller businesses not being able to continue trading and a lot of bigger companies (food factories) disappearing. Hopefully people will make positive decisions to support local and independent brands over multinationals?!
6. What would you say to anyone who has discovered an independent business who has supported them through lockdown?
Please continue to support local and independent business. This isn’t a straight shout out for Bearslake Inn but more of a hope that we can return to a more diverse and independant food scene. More butchers, greengrocers and people who care, support and nurture the whole food and hospitality sector.
Visit The Bearslake Inn website – https://www.bearslakeinn.com/