Catherine Parton of The Old Rectory in North Wales

Hospitality firms and accommodation providers have made significant changes to their premises in a bid to claw back business lost during the Coronavirus lockdowns.

The region’s hotels, B&Bs, cafés, pubs and restaurants have endured a torrid time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many reopened with strict social distancing and safety measures in place, while others have diversified to ensure they survive and thrive into 2021.

Among them is the Three Eagles bar and grill in Llangollen, which is planning to celebrate Christmas early this year.

Adam Gaunt Evans, chef and operations director, took onboard customer feedback and has re-branded as a more laid-back venue, serving artisan favourites and festive treats like the Three Turkeys signature burger.

“Our customers spoke, and we answered with an epic new menu, served all day, every day,” said Adam.

“Bookings came in thick and fast, and the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme drew in the mid-week customers throughout the summer, as did our free children’s menu.”

Moving forward, the Three Eagles remains confident of continued success, thanks to its focus on customer service, ambience, and entertainment, demonstrated by their new undercover, heated Winter Wonderland in the courtyard, for drinking and dining.

“We’re better than ever before,” added Adam, who was also celebrating the Three Eagles being recognised as TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travellers’ Choice award winner, ranking it in the top 10% of restaurants worldwide.

“And over the coming weeks our focus is solely on helping customers get through these uncertain times.”

Catherine Parton, owner of the Old Rectory Bed and Breakfast and Cedar Tree holiday cottage in Clocaenog, near Ruthin, has also adapted the services they provide to secure the future of the business.

Cancellation of Wales Rally GB – which would have taken place last month and included a stage shakedown through Clocaenog forest and stages at Brenig and Alwen – was a hammer blow, but she insists they will continue to recover and move forward.

“We’ve never experienced anything like this in the 10 years we’ve been in business,” said Catherine.

“Most people cancelled straight away when lockdown began in March but we were able to keep things ticking over by having some key workers stay in the bed and breakfast, and over the summer the self-contained holiday cottage was booked out.

“The rally is popular as Clocaenog forest is a key location for the race, so losing that guaranteed custom was tough, and the lockdown in England has had a detrimental effect after the ‘firebreak’ we had here in Wales. It’s been very disruptive but hopefully we will pick up new bookings in the run up to Christmas.”

She added: “The positives are that we are open and that in turn has an impact on the supply chain because we use local produce for our breakfasts.

“The bacon and sausages are from our local butcher, coffee is from Owen and Edwards in Ruthin, the eggs are from a smallholding in the village and our bread is from Eagles Bakery in Ruthin.

“We use a lot of local producers and us being closed had a knock-on effect for them.

“As we all look to the future and embrace social distancing and new ways of working, local firms and hospitality and accommodation providers in north east Wales can get through this together.”

Robyn Lovelock, Taste Project Coordinator and Secretary of Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, was in agreement.

“It was vital our local hospitality and accommodation venues reopened – for their own survival, and also for our local farmers and producers who rely on them for sales,” she said.

“The nature of the industry means it was always going to be one of the sectors that was hardest hit – and the timing could not have been worse in the Spring – but there has been a lot of support for these local businesses, especially from customers, and we hope that will still be the case in the months and years ahead.”

The second annual Taste North East Wales is taking place online this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host a virtual celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.