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Pub landlord: ‘We’ve taught ourselves how to run a completely different business’

PUBLISHED: 12:48 25 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:34 26 April 2020

Terry and Pam Gillman, landlords at The Black Horse in Thetford, have had to adapt their business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Terry and Pam Gillman, landlords at The Black Horse in Thetford, have had to adapt their business amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

As Terry Gillman pauses to chat, he temporarily lays down his trusty potato peeler.

The Black Horse, Thetford, has had to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: ArchantThe Black Horse, Thetford, has had to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Archant

The pub landlord is in the middle of preparing roast dinners ahead of a busy Sunday lunch service, which will see meals delivered piping hot to people’s doors.

Like hundreds of businesses across Norfolk, The Black Horse, in Thetford, has been forced to adapt to unprecedented circumstances as punters adjust to lockdown life amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After all pubs and restaurants were ordered to close last month, Mr Gillman and his wife, Pam, were left with little option but to furlough all staff, aside from one chef.

The Black Horse landlord Terry Gillman delivered takeaway meals dressed as St George to mark St George's Day. Picture: Jackie GillmanThe Black Horse landlord Terry Gillman delivered takeaway meals dressed as St George to mark St George's Day. Picture: Jackie Gillman

But, determined to continue serving their community, they hatched a plan to transform the business into a takeaway service.

MORE: Stunning pub mural salutes heroics of Captain Tom Moore

The experience, according to Mr Gillman, has been a learning curve, to say the least.

Artist Lee Stroble painted a mural of Captain Tom Moore on The Black Horse in Thetford. Picture: Jackie GillmanArtist Lee Stroble painted a mural of Captain Tom Moore on The Black Horse in Thetford. Picture: Jackie Gillman

He said: “When the lockdown came in we sat down and said ‘this is what we’ll have to do to survive’ - it all happened very quickly.

“We have had to teach ourselves how to run a completely different business and we had no idea what kind of response we were going to get.”

The response has, however, been emphatic, with dozens of meals ordered every day by customers in Thetford and the surrounding area.

The Black Horse landlords, Pam and Terry Gillman, outside the Thetford pub in 2018. Picture: ArchantThe Black Horse landlords, Pam and Terry Gillman, outside the Thetford pub in 2018. Picture: Archant

“We’re snowed under with orders but we are not actually making any money,” added Mr Gillman. “On the plus side we are not getting in debt either.

“Our restaurant looks like a warehouse and we’ve had to work out the best procedures to make things work. Sourcing takeaway containers has been a struggle - something we’ve never faced before - and we’re changing our menu on a daily basis.

“We’ll continue doing this for as long as necessary to come out with a business on the other side.”

The Black Horse landlord Terry Gillman delivered takeaway meals dressed as St George to mark St George's Day. Picture: Jackie GillmanThe Black Horse landlord Terry Gillman delivered takeaway meals dressed as St George to mark St George's Day. Picture: Jackie Gillman

Mr Gillman has been responsible for the delivery side of the service, ensuring he adheres to social distancing rules by leaving meals on customers’ doorsteps.

In celebration of St George’s Day, he even dressed up as England’s patron saint to raise spirits.

“This is keeping us in touch with our regulars,” said Mr Gillman. “They can’t come to the pub, so the pub comes to them.

Artist Lee Stroble painted a mural of Captain Tom Moore on The Black Horse in Thetford. Picture: Jackie GillmanArtist Lee Stroble painted a mural of Captain Tom Moore on The Black Horse in Thetford. Picture: Jackie Gillman

“Some are on their own so I’ve been calling to make sure they’re okay. We are doing what we can.”

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