Since March 2020 the UK’s pubs have either been closed entirely or operating under severe and ever-tightening restrictions due to spread of Covid-19.

This has had a devastating impact on all hospitality businesses and with 2,700 pubs spread through England, Scotland and Wales, Greene King has faced a fight to survive as a business.

Navigating the crisis has been tough and we know there is still a long way to go. Pubs have been at the forefront of government restrictions and closures and many pubs have found their previously secure futures now under threat.

Since the day pubs were closed, our chief executive set out three objectives to our 38,000 employees and 1,000 tenants:

  1. Ensuring the financial stability of our business
  2. Positioning us to exit this crisis as the strongest in the sector and be ready to bounce-back
  3. And as far as possible protecting our employees and leased and tenanted partners from the worst impact of the crisis.

These three objectives have underpinned all our decision making in this turbulent year. Below is further information looking back at how these past few months have evolved and the steps we’ve taken to look out for our teams, partners and communities.

Our teams

As an employer of 38,000 people Greene King has taken its responsibilities extremely seriously as we aim to look after as many of our teams as possible.

From 6 April, we were able to furlough 99% of our employees via the government’s Job Retention Scheme on 80% of pay. The government capped the monthly furlough payments at £2,500, so we topped-up the furlough payments for those who this would affect to ensure that every furloughed Greene King employee was receiving 80% of their pay while furloughed.

In the spring we set up a team member support fund of £500,000 to support our team members who were in the greatest financial need. We partnered with the Licensed Trade Charity who administered this on our behalf. This was partly paid for by salary sacrifices from our executive board and senior leaders in the business who took pay cuts to contribute to the fund.

Our Ice-olation Breaker challengers saw team members staying in close virtual contact throughout lockdown taking part in challenges and fundraisers to stay positive as well as supporting their communities.

Our chief executive recorded weekly video updates for teams and there were frequent live video conferences to stay up to date with the very latest information on Greene King so they were the first to hear of any changes.

Our partners

We have around 1,000 tied pub tenants throughout England, Scotland and Wales who have seen their businesses devastated by Covid-19.

From the outset we have sought to offer as much support as possible with rent discounts of up to 90% to help them survive.

Greene King has invested around £25m in supporting its tenants, primarily through rent concessions but also through credits on beer purchased from Greene King, purchasing PPE (personal protective equipment) for each pub and replacing unopened beer that went out of date during lockdowns with fresh stock on reopening.

Initially, we launched a partner support fund that aimed to target support for those pubs most in need as there was a disparity between pubs that had received a £25,000 grant from the government to pay fixed costs like rent and others which received nothing.

By the middle of June, however, with no pubs yet able to reopen any grants received would have been used and so Greene King switched to an automatic 90% rent concession for all its tied tenants, which continued for four weeks after they were able to reopen in July.

Rent concessions continued at varying levels depending on trading but never went below 40% in 2020. When various lockdowns were introduced at different times across England, Scotland and Wales in the autumn rent concessions returned to 90% and these continued during the winter when severe restrictions were in place that either kept pubs closed or closed in all but name.

Our communities

After pubs closed in March, we donated more than £250,000 of food to Fareshare, the Felix Project, Bread & Butter charity and Emmaus, as well as local foodbanks and the NHS.

When pubs were forced to close again in England in November pubs again gave food away for free to local good causes to make sure the least amount of food went to waste as possible.

Since 2012 we have worked closely with Macmillan Cancer Support as our charity partner. With the usual Macmillan May fundraiser unable to take place this year we instead moved it to September and October and our team members smashed all previous records by raising a staggering £1m for the charity.

During the first lockdown, a number of our team members used their time while furloughed to volunteer as telephone buddies for the charity. The aim of the initiative was to alleviate loneliness and social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, with our team members receiving training from the charity before being matched to one or two people living with cancer so they could speak to them once a week and help deliver 12 weeks of emotional support.

Prior to pubs being closed we had been able to purchase a significant amount of hand sanitiser to distribute to all our pubs for team members and customers to use. However, with the closure of pubs we wanted this to be put to immediate use and so donated 3,000 litres to the Leonard Cheshire disability charity.

We launched our virtual pub, The Lock Inn, to help fight loneliness, encourage interaction and provide some entertainment during the lockdown. The pub, which was hosted on the GK Brewery Facebook Page, featured weekly entertainment with a pub quiz every Wednesday and Rock n Roll Bingo every Friday. It was all free, with customers only asked to make a donation to our charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support if they were entertained.

Across our pubs, our team members supported their communities locally, whether by making PPE at home, looking after vulnerable customers, donating additional food or supporting the NHS.

As part of our longstanding relationship with the Prince’s Trust, we donated £20,000 to its Young Persons’ Relief Fund to support young people facing uncertainty in work and careers right now.

Our brewery

During the first lockdown the only part of Greene King that remained operating initially was our brewery in Bury St Edmunds, which continued to brew beer for our online beer shop, supermarkets and other off-licences.

However, we were brewing on a greatly reduced schedule as the demand only made up a small proportion of our usual supply to thousands of pubs, social clubs, sports grounds and venues across the country.

There was also a mammoth logistical challenge to collect thousands of unopened, full casks of beer from pubs so they could be brought back and the liquid inside destroyed in a more environmentally friendly manner than pouring down the drain.

We also supported our free trade customers and Pub Partners tenants with replacing out-of-date and unopened casks and kegs with replacement containers when they were able to reopen in July.

Pub Safe

Ahead of pubs reopening in July we launched Pub Safe – a new set of five promises to our teams and customers to make sure when our 1,700 managed pubs reopened it was in as safe a manner as possible:

  • Safe socialising layout throughout our pubs
  • Looking after our team, so they can look after our customers
  • Minimise contact
  • Hand sanitising and hygiene
  • Pub Safe Monitor

The measures were extremely well received by our teams and customers. Shortly afterwards we undertook a survey of 25,000 customers which showed that 86% of customers felt their pub still retained the atmosphere they hoped for despite the additional safety measures in place and 98% said they would be comfortable returning again in future.

Timeline

16th March

Prime Minister tells people not to visit pubs.

17th March

Greene King confirms to its tied tenants that all rent payments are deferred during the current crisis to free up cash flow for tenants.

20th March

Prime Minister orders pubs to close.

20th March

Greene King guarantees it will continue full pay for all employees until 5th April.

23rd March

Prime Minister announces a UK-wide lockdown.

25th March

Greene King confirms to its pub tenants that all unopened kegs and casks that are out of date when pubs reopen will be replaced for free at a cost of over £1m.

25th March

The Greene King brewery commits to its free trade customers that it will replace all kegs and casks delivered that go out of date before reopening, replacing those un-broached with fresh stock at no cost to customers.

1st April

Greene King Pub Partners teams up with StarStock, a new initiative to allow pubs to operate as click-and-collect community shops during lockdown.

6th April

99% of Greene King’s 38,000 employees are furloughed apart from a core team to keep the business running while pubs were closed and income was all but zero.

16th April

Greene King donates 3,000 litres of hand sanitiser gel, purchased before lockdown for its pubs, to leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

17th April

Greene King Pub Partners launches a Partner Support Fund to provide millions of pounds of rent concessions to pub tenants who have not been eligible for any financial support from the government.

22nd April

Greene King launches the Lock Inn, a virtual pub offering weekly quizzes, bingo and entertainment acts to promote online socialising in the community and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

27th April

Greene King Pub Partners pays for every single one of its 1,000 pub tenants to become members of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) an independent body that provides expert advice on everything from legal and licensing issues to tax queries.

6th May

Greene King launches a £300,000 Team Member Support Fund to help its employees most in need during the current crisis, it is later increased to £500,000.

11th May

Prime Minister confirms that pubs will not reopen in England before at least 4th July.

21st May

Greene King Pub Partners confirms that from 11th June all tied tenants will receive a 90% rent concession until four weeks after they are legally allowed to reopen their pubs, bringing the estimate value of rent concessions for tied tenants to £11m.

22nd May

Greene King launches takeaway from 29 of Metropolitan Pub Company pubs in London.

5th June

Greene King Pub Partners confirms it will pay for each of its 1,000 tenants to receive £250 of PPE support ahead of reopening, along with £120 of Covid-19 signage.

10th June

Greene King expands its takeaway and delivery offer to 40 pubs, mainly in the East Midlands, East Anglia and North West of the England.

12th June

Greene King launches Pub Safe – a new set of five promises to our teams and customers to make sure when our pubs reopened it was in as safe a manner as possible.

23rd June

Prime Minister finally confirms that pubs will definitely be allowed to reopen in England on 4th July, although opening dates in Scotland and Wales are not confirmed as that is a matter for the devolved governments.

24th June

Greene King’s employee-led LGBT+ network The Village Greene marks Pride by taking over the Lock Inn virtual pub, running virtual events centred around celebrating LGBT+ culture, as well as fundraising for LGBT+ charity Switchboard and UK Black Pride.

24th June

The government guidance for hospitality confirms venues must collect the names and contact details of customers to support NHS Test & Trace.

4th July

Pubs are legally allowed to reopen in England.

6th July

Greene King reopens nearly 1,300 of its managed pubs all with an order and pay app and most offering takeaway. Some are also partnered with Deliveroo or JustEat to offer delivery.

15th July

Pubs are legally allowed to reopen in Scotland.

16th July

Greene King releases survey data from 25,000 people showing that 86% of its customers felt their pub still retained the atmosphere they hoped for despite the additional safety measures in place and 98% said they would be comfortable returning again in future.

20th July

Greene King confirms that its pubs will be signing up for the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August, which offers 50% off food and soft drinks up to the value of £10 per person. The discount will be valid Monday to Wednesday throughout August.

3rd August

Pubs are legally allowed to reopen in Wales.

3rd August

The UK government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme launches.

14th August

The Scottish government publishes new guidance for pubs that means no music can be played in pubs and televisions should be muted.

25th August

Greene King Pub Partners confirms that after the current round of rent concessions for its tied tenants comes to an end eight weeks after reopening, a further eight weeks of rent concessions will continue through until the end of October.

1st September

With the annual Macmillan May fundraiser unable to take place this year, Greene King moves it to September and October, with all managed pub teams dedicating efforts towards fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support.

14th September

The Rule of Six is introduced that limits social gatherings to no more than six people indoors and outdoors. This is introduced across England and Scotland. In Scotland face coverings are also made compulsory in pubs when people are not sat at a table.

15th September

Regional restrictions become more common across the UK during September, especially in the north of England.

18th September

It becomes mandatory for pubs to take customer details to assist Test & Trace.

24th September

Across the UK, a number of additional regulations are introduced for pubs, including: a 10pm curfew and table-service only. England also follows Scotland by introducing mandatory face coverings for customers and staff.

24th September

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announces further financial support for businesses impacted by Covid-19.

24th September

Greene King Pub Partners pub The Fountain in Aberfeldy is named the ‘Greene King Pub Hero’ at the Great British Pub Awards after launching a delivery service during lockdown that saw 40,000 free meals delivered to the vulnerable and isolated. The Crown in Gayton is also named the winner of the Sheltering the Community Award for converting its hotel rooms into accommodation for NHS workers during lockdown.

7th October

Greene King announces that unfortunately due to the continued uncertainty and restrictions on pubs, including the government’s 10pm curfew, it has identified 79 pubs that will not reopen imminently, with around a third of those pubs expected to close permanently. Around 800 job roles are affected with work undertaken to redeploy team members to other pubs where possible.

8th October

Greene King increases rent discounts for its tied tenants across the UK up until Christmas, in light of increasing Covid-19 restrictions.

8th October

Greene King wins the Leadership of the Year award at the UK Social Mobility Awards with its support for employees during the Covid lockdown forming a significant part of the entry.

9th October

A circuit break lockdown is introduced in Scotland. Greene King Pub Partners discounts rents by 90% for its Scottish tenants during this period.

14th October

A new three-tier system of restrictions comes into force in England.

23rd October

Wales begins a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown which sees pubs close.

30th October

Greene King teams hit their £1m fundraising target in September and October for Macmillan Cancer Support, smashing all previous records.

31st October

The Prime Minister announces a new national lockdown in England for four weeks from 5th November. Greene King confirms to all its tied tenants that their rents will be discounted by 90% during this period.

2nd November

Greene King confirms that pubs in Levels 2-4 in Scotland will receive a 90% rent concession while pubs in Levels 0-1 will receive a 40% rent concession.

5th November

All pubs in England close for four weeks as a new lockdown begins.

5th November

The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirms further financial support for the UK economy and confirms furlough will be extended until the end of March 2021.

24th November

The UK government confirms restrictions will increase in the tier system in England so that pubs cannot open in Tier 3 and can only serve alcohol with a substantial meal in Tier 2.

25th November

Greene King publishes a survey with YouGov that highlight the importance of pubs to help combat loneliness and isolation over Christmas.

26th November

The tier areas are announced for England and 99% of England is in either Tier 2 or Tier 3. Out of approximately 2,300 Greene King pubs in England, just six are in Tier 1.

1 December

Greene King Pub Partners confirms partners in England will continue receiving a 90% rent discount in tiers two and three.