The King’s Head Pub’s most recent ‘pivot’, as they’re calling it, is a great one. It revolves around a few points which we recommend you try to keep in mind when considering the rationale behind this move.
First of all, two-thirds of The King’s Head staff are unable to work, currently, for various reasons. This pivot will allow more of them to retain their employment and add a slew of hours to their paycheques. Yes, you read that right, a local company is trying to pay MORE in labour. Brilliant, I say.
Second, the pub is doing everything it can to survive. They’re looking at ways to continue providing the same level of service they always have while also chipping away at unnecessary costs.
Third, the owners and staff of the pub love Winnipeg and recognize that they are also loved back by the city’s population in a very unique way. They hope this new maneuver will add a little more love to that pile and strengthen that relationship.
So, what shift can The King’s Head Pub make that will satisfy all these points? How can they do any more than they already have?
I mean, they were the first major pub to announce their intention to close and it came a day before their busiest day of the year!
Then, they started using their staff to offer grocery delivery via their website which encouraged people to stay home during the lockdown instead of having people running through the local grocery aisles, while also providing much needed hours and paycheque for the regular staff of the pub during a time when they weren’t allowed to be in operation. I think it’s also noteworthy that all that effort and care came from Graves and his partners even before anyone knew what CERB was or how to access it.
When they could open their patio, they changed their social media focus to an ‘all patio, all the time’ strategy. This kept people in the seats, and even in light rain they sometimes encouraged people to be brave and sit under one of their many umbrellas, which many patrons did.
Plus, during the re-opening phases, they famously refused service to people that couldn’t answer their COVID screening questions and stuck to their guns despite causing an absolute uproar online about whether or not they had the right to do so. They maintained that they were only ever doing this as a safety measure to look after their patrons and staff, and I for one and glad they did. Whether or not they should have done that is irrelevant in my mind. The key takeaway from that situation should be that a) they made a decision they thought was in the best interest of their staff and their patrons, and; b) they didn’t fold to pressure from anyone that took issue, standing firm on their stance that erring on the side of caution was the wiser, more prudent route.
On top of all that, as I write this article, the pub is in the news again, blasting the government’s handling of the upcoming potential re-closure of pubs (amongst other policy changes).
There was a “wait for it” style Instagram post Friday that made many Winnipeggers wonder what was up with the local watering hole, most of which was critical of The Provincial Government. The King’s Head (@kingsheadwpg on Instagram) posted that they were “confused” about the new restrictions coming down the pipe. The King’s Head has, during the entirety of the pandemic, been a local leader and (whether intentionally or not) really been the head of the spear pushing for local businesses to get the answers and resources they need to survive.
All of that is to say this pub’s ownership cares deeply about their staff, their patrons, and the city they all share.
The New Pivot
At the end of the Instagram post I referenced, there was a promise from the pub. “On a positive note,” the paragraph began, “we will be announcing something new on Monday… another Kings Head Pivot… stay tuned.”
So, again, what is the new step The King’s Head Pub is looking to implement? Independent delivery.
I guess now would be a good time to point out that we should have included reason number four above, which is that, “Third-party delivery fees are brutal,” according to King’s Head owner Chris Graves. He’s not alone in thinking this. There have been a number of managers and owners of pubs that have told me the same exact thing, but some of them don’t have the ability to run their own delivery services, meaning that if they need to offer delivery they’re essentially forced to use the aforementioned costly third-party services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, or the Winnipeg-founded Skip The Dishes. Some have opted not to offer delivery at all, as they feel that the extravagant third-party fees would ultimately defeat the purpose.
Graves divulged the main reason he and his pub have decided to move in this direction, saying, “We love Winnipeg and we know people love our food and to be able to deliver safely with a familiar face… that’s a double win.”
He hopes people will skip the Skip and get their food directly from the people they already know and trust. Knowing how much they are doing to advocate for their staff, other pubs, and the entire local community as a whole, I think that’s a fair ask in return.