Pub gives away free lunches

A SUFFOLK pub is boosting its number of customers by laying on free food once a week.

A SUFFOLK pub is boosting its number of customers by laying on free food once a week.

Monday lunchtimes at The Plough in Wisset, near Halesworth, traditionally the quietest time of the week for pubs, are now pulling in credit crunch-busters for miles around, thanks to a clever idea by landlords Nick and Debbie Sumner.

“On Mondays we always used to clean out the fridges,” said Mrs Sumner. “We were throwing a lot of food away. We said instead of throwing it away why not give it away?

“As long as people buy a drink they can have free food instead of it going to the chickens.”

Between 12 and 2pm once a week, the pub, which prides itself on serving locally-sourced fresh food, lays on a veritable selection of hot and cold dishes in buffet style. The choice of food varies, with yesterday's dishes including sausage casserole, soup, cold meats and salads. Any customer who pays for either an alcoholic or a soft drink is then entitled to join in the feasting.

Although free-loaders may think they are getting the better end of the deal, the landlords not only reap the rewards of those contented customers who then decide to while away the afternoon at the bar, but also find themselves welcoming drinkers and diners who may otherwise never have set foot in the country pub.

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Mr Sumner said the offer, which drew in about 10 customers when it started, now attracts up to 70 people, not only from the village but further afield. The couple admitted that the popularity of the offer had escalated through word of mouth, and now necessitated food being prepared solely for the purpose, rather than just using up leftover produce.

“It makes it out busiest week day,” he said. “There is definitely such a thing as a free lunch in Wissett.”

The couple even plan to replace the buffet with barbecues in the summer for the permanent offer, which started in October and takes place every Monday throughout the year except bank holidays.

Westhall resident Colin Green, who enjoyed a meal at the Plough yesterday with his wife Pauline, said he was surprised it had not taken off elsewhere, adding: “It's a wonderful idea. It's so popular. No-one seems to take too much advantage of it.”

Adept at finding new ways to generate income in an industry that is struggling purely on drink sales, the ingenious landlords say they have been forced to diversify to boost business, including setting up their own village shop, due to open on April 28.

- The pub is organising a 14-mile charity pub crawl by bicycle on April 4 leaving from the pub at 11.30am. Proceeds go to Beach House residential home in Halesworth.