A pub landlord has explained how his business is adapting to cope with the uncertainty of an outdoor only reopening after lockdown - including allowing customers to order on WhatsApp.

The Rose and Thistle in Rockbourne is reopening and looking ahead to a busy weekend with plenty of bookings coming in.

But money is still tight after months of enforced closure with no cash coming in.

Pub beer gardens and outdoor hospitality businesses have been able to reopen this week as the second stage of the easing of lockdown restrictions started on Monday.

Chris Chester-Sterne, who runs the Rose and Thistle which opens once again at 5pm today (Friday, April 16), said he was "excited" to welcome back customers but also "nervous".

"It is good, we are getting lots of bookings coming through," added Chris.

"We're really excited to see our locals.

"It's been a long time since Christmas. Everyone is raring to get back to the pub."

WhatsApp ordering option

The tables are socially distanced and there will be full table service.

Customers will also be able to order using WhatsApp.

"We've utilised WhatsApp for business so if we if you want to order a round of drinks you can WhatsApp your order and we will bring that over," explains Chris.

"It's a bit different and easier than trying to use an app and put all your card details in.

"It should help speed the process up slightly."

Booking changes

Chris is hopeful for good weather especially over the weekend. "We are doing our best sun salutations and hoping for the best really.

"This weekend is really looking good.

"Considering we have got such a small garden I'm quite pleased with the numbers. I hope that continues.

"I do understand that people are leaving it to the last minute to see what the weather is doing."

Bookings can be made online or by emailing.

After experiencing problems previously with people not showing up for bookings the pub will be taking card details to secure reservations, hoping to avoid cancellations costing the pub on staffing and products.

Still a need to save money

Changes to booking are not the only steps the pub is taking to keep a tight control on costs.

The pub garden has managed to accommodate a couple of extra tables to the area.

But Chris says they made the decision not to spend out more money on building marquees or outside structures as they just did not have the funds available.

He said: "We've taken the decision this time that we are not in a position to throw any more money at marquees, structures or anything like that.

"Whilst furlough is still there we have taken the decision to keep the majority of staff furloughed.

"It will just be myself and a couple of others working and just reduce everything right down to Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday."

The pub is waiting for a government restart grant to come through, which would have given some financial help before reopening.

"The government promised this restart grant but we haven't received it yet.

"I've received confirmation yesterday that it had been awarded but it can take three days to come through.

"It is a restart grant but you are not actually getting it until after you have reopened considering we were allowed to reopen from Monday," added Chris.

'You don't know what's coming'

The pub has found it hard to plan for an outdoor only reopening.

Chris said: "It is really difficult to predict how much stock you are going to need.

"Things have changed massively compared to when I'd normally be doing the ordering this time the year before (2019).

"There is no real pattern at the moment, you don't know what's coming through the door.

"I don't want to run out of stock but equally I can't order so much that we are not going to have the money to pay for it."

The delay to the government restart grant is a particular problem for pubs, who have had a cash flow during the months of lockdown.

Chris said: "There is a real issue in the industry with cashflow.

"Quite obviously the suppliers aren't willing to give you a big credit facility because of what has happened over the last year and that is for everyone, not just for us.

"Having that grant a bit earlier would have helped but I still think we'd probably be doing the same thing.

"We wouldn't necessarily have opened more or spent money on a big structure or anything.

"But it would have helped."

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