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All of the focus this month in hospitality has rightly been on the return of outdoor dining. It’s been fantastic to see so many pubs, restaurants cafés and other venues finally able to open to customers again – albeit with the necessary restrictions in place.

The last 12 months have been a challenge to say the least. I’ve seen the impact of coronavirus across our industry, from clients who have been forced to pivot, to magazines that had to temporarily cease production and venues doing everything they can to survive through lockdowns and trading restrictions.

Like everybody in the industry, I’m delighted to see the return of customers in beer gardens and outdoor dining spaces across England. And it seems the gods were shining down on us with the fantastic weather we’ve had in the first fortnight since that all-important April 12th date.

However, the return of customers would not have been the success it has so far without the hard work, innovation and entrepreneurialism of operators. I’ve taken great pleasure in seeing the ways in which businesses have made the most of the relaxed measures.

Here are just a few of the best examples I’ve seen in and around my local town, Bury St Edmunds:

  • New outdoor spaces, like the Northgate Hotel. Part of the Chestnut Group, this striking Victorian townhouse transformed into a restaurant and cocktail bar now includes a Spring garden tipi, where you can book tables for outdoor dining. A fantastic example of how to make the most of outdoor space.
  • Dining experiences, such as those at Ravenwood Hall. Making the most of alfresco opportunities with a selection of dining experiences including a summer house and marquee, overlooking the Suffolk countryside.
  • Lunchtime deals, like at So Bar. Traditionally a cocktail bar and lounge, they’ve introduced a series of lunchtime deals including soup and ciabatta with a drink, as well as pizza with a drink, to draw people into their new outdoor dining space.
  • New openings, including The Bull Freehouse in the nearby village of Troston. Excellent food, brilliant beer and first-rate service is on offer at this pub, which has an outdoor dining area and even a microbrewery on site.
  • And not forgetting the continuation of takeaway and delivery services such as Quality Eats: This is a local food delivery service, running social media competitions to drive engagement and drum up business now that restrictions are starting to ease.

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