Pubs in Dereham busier than ever despite drop in consumer spending

Gavin and Victoria Hunt in front of The Fox at Lyng, and Steve Garner in front of The Cock pub in Dereham

Pubs and restaurants in the Dereham area have reported being busier than ever despite an apparent decline in consumer spending - Credit: Archant

Pubs in the Dereham area appear to be bucking the trend after warnings that the soaring cost of living was putting people off from eating out. 

Landlords have reported being busier than ever, despite fears that big bills for food, energy and fuel may deter customers from treating themselves. 

UK consumer spending growth slowed in January to 7.4pc compared with the same month in 2020, according to figures from Barclaycard - the smallest rise since April 2021.

A new hanging sign has been unveiled at The Cock in Dereham

The Cock pub in Dereham - Credit: Colin Collis

Restaurant spending plummeted by 17pc, contributing heavily to a 6pc decline in spending on leisure and hospitality after five months of growth.

But Victoria Hunt, who runs Tuddenham Lodge and The Fox at Lyng with her husband, Gavin, said recent evidence seemed to suggest otherwise. 

"I would actually say the opposite is happening here," she said. 

"We have been really busy since Christmas. Our January held up really well and that's comparing it to pre-Covid times. 

The Fox pub in Lyng. Picture: The Fox

The Fox at Lyng pub - Credit: Archant

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"March tends to be our quieter month, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

"As much as eating out is one of the easiest things that people can do without, some really need it.

"What might happen is they do it once a fortnight instead of once a week. I think that may be the compromise, rather than cutting it out completely."

Steve Garner, who has been in charge for the last year at Darbys in Swanton Morley, revealed the pub and restaurant had seen punters coming through the door in their droves.

Steve Garner at The Cock on Norwich Street, Dereham. The pub reopened in January 2020. Picture: Arch

Steve Garner at The Cock in Dereham

"We have experienced quite an uptick in business, but I think that is a post-Omicron sort of effect," he said.

"At the moment we are getting more customers than we have ever had. We are full every Sunday; I spend my Sunday mornings turning people away. 

"I think part of that - without wishing to blow our own trumpet - is we are very good at what we do, and we are good at promoting ourselves as well."

While energy bills are set to increase by hundreds of pounds for millions across the country, Mr and Mrs Hunt are, for now, determined to try and absorb the costs. 

Gavin and Victoria Hunt outside The Fox. Picture: Ian Burt

Gavin and Victoria Hunt run The Fox at Lyng and Tuddenham Lodge - Credit: IAN BURT

"We are going to do all we can to still offer the same value for money," added Mrs Hunt. 

"Our costs will be going up at a rate that is pretty scary, not only from suppliers but utilities as well. At some point there may have to be a price increase to take that into account."

And Mr Garner, who also runs The Cock in Dereham with his partner, Jane Howard, was largely in agreement - but highlighted the dilemma facing publicans. 

"I think price rises are definitely going to play a part going forward," he added.

"We are going to get squeezed as publicans because, if you stick to your guns and raise your prices, nobody will go down to the pub."