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‘People still want beer’ – Coronavirus prompts brewery to launch a ‘drive-thru’ for ale-lovers

PUBLISHED: 16:07 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:07 18 March 2020

Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless

Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless "drive-thru" for beer in response to concerns over coronavirus. Pictured: Brewery owner Phil Halls. Picture: Dylan Halls

Dylan Halls

A Norfolk brewery has found an inventive way to keep its ale flowing during the coronavirus crisis – by launching a drive-thru for beer.

Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless "drive-thru" for beer in response to concerns over coronavirus. Picture: Phil Halls

Grain Brewery, at Alburgh near Harleston, was faced with falling trade as its customers were forced to shun pubs and shops to isolate themselves against the outbreak.

But rather than calling time on its brewing activities, the company aims to lift the mood of beer-drinkers by taking advantage of the site’s potential for contactless shopping via a two-window order and collection system similar to the ones used by many fast-food restaurants.

The brewery is now working on putting its positive idea into action, including asking customers to provide refillable containers like milk bottles until a larger stock of reusable mini-kegs can be found, and it is preparing to change its opening hours to ensure the service is available in the late afternoon and early evening when people might be able to use the drive-thru.

Brewery owner and director Phil Halls said: “Two days ago I was expecting to close down. We have a brewery full of beer and no customers to sell it to.

Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless Grain Brewery is preparing to launch a contactless "drive-thru" for beer in response to concerns over coronavirus. Picture: Phil Halls

“I looked into our cellar here thinking I would have to throw all that beer out if this situation goes on and on. That would be daft. People are being told not to go to pubs any more but they still want beer to drink, so we needed to change what we do.

“We are not really set up for deliveries, so I thought ‘how can we do it so people don’t have to touch each other and risk passing on the virus’?

“I looked at the layout of the brewery and we are perfect for a drive-thru. We have got an island area where people can pay and pick up their beer without getting within 10 yards of anyone. And we have lots of virus-killing chemicals here so we can spray down the container and make sure it is clean before we put it on the table for them.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Norfolk

Mr Halls said he was confident that the region’s army of small businesses would embrace similar novel solutions to keep their customers and staff engaged during the unprecedented commercial challenge brought by Covid-19.

“We are going to be in this for the long haul,” he said. “I think through all this we will see the best in people, and some amazing creative ideas coming out of it. People will adapt to change. We are a hardy lot and I think we will come up with all sorts of ways to keep things going.

“At Grain the key is to keep the staff involved, that is the most important thing. We are all in this together and the top priority is making sure everybody still gets paid.”

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