— My Celebration & Covid-19 —
Q&A with Dine’s Founder, Daniel Gill & General Manager, Matt Jones
Given the unprecedented disruption that Covid-19 has caused to hosts and suppliers alike, co-operation between all parties is the right way forward to ensure that everyone gets the best possible outcome for their celebration in due course.
It is worth remembering that people working in the wedding and events sector choose to do so because they get their satisfaction from ensuring that each client has a memorable and enjoyable experience, both during the planning stage and on the day itself. During the lockdown, some of the Dine team have been training whilst others have been working on menu development and innovations such as our on-line portal, which allows hosts to send RSVPs and collate these in their on-line planning area and also allocate bedrooms to their guests. We have also been working hard on improvements across our venues.
Dan Gill, founder of ‘Dine’ and MD Matt Jones set out to address the most common questions being received by the Dine team and throughout the industry and advise on how to get the best result even during this period of unprecedented disruption:
Q; How have Dine fared during Covid-19 over the past year of fluctuating lockdowns?
MJ: The last 12 months have been tough for many industries, particularly those in hospitality and events. We are fortunate however that not every part of our business has been hit as hard as others. There’s Dine Delivered (www.dinedelivered.co.uk ), which has had a record year of sales, and the Garden Room Café at The Mansion, which has been able to remain open offering a take away service. In addition, we’ve also received excellent support from Government and our banking partners as well as other major stakeholders in our venues, and for this we are very grateful. By retaining a large percentage of future bookings, and because couples have worked with us and paid deposits in line with original booking dates, we’ve been able to maintain confidence in our future trading across the board.
Q; How are our deposit monies treated by Dine?
MJ: All client deposits are retained in nominated accounts for each venue and are ring-fenced for future trading. We sought professional financial advice at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that the business could both survive and be in a strong position to be able to deliver the future business and events that we are committed to.
Q:Why haven’t I been offered an equivalent date to postpone my Wedding to?
DG: Suppliers have simply struggled with the fact that many of these dates are already booked by existing clients. Many have been able to offer either an equivalent date in 2022, dates in the autumn, winter or spring months, or midweek or Sunday alternatives. Equally, they may rely on some key dates to drive new bookings and ensure the sustainability of the business which ultimately is in everyone’s interest.
Q; Should I expect my pricing to increase?
DG: In our experience, most suppliers have offered a ‘price freeze’ as a goodwill gesture. Certainly, Dine have been able to offer this to our clients moving to alternative dates in the winter and spring months and we are limiting price increases to ‘at cost’ figures where clients wish to move to a peak date.
Q; Why have I been advised to claim on my insurance?
DG: Many venues advise or require clients to take out insurance precisely to protect them from the cost of any unseen disruption to their event. Where clients are able to make a valid claim on their insurance it makes sense for them to do so. Clearly this also means that you have more options in terms of re-booking your event.
However, Dine has been able to assist clients who were not able to make a claim by simply postponing the celebration to an available date.
Q: Why is Dine working on postponements 12 weeks before my current date and what happens if I would like to move my Wedding even further in advance?
DG: Most suppliers are being careful to proceed in an orderly manner which is in line with regulations but also fair to every client. Agreeing to move dates ahead of time creates an unfairness to clients whose weddings might be affected earlier than yours.
MJ: At the moment we find that 12 weeks is the best compromise to give you the best chance of having the wedding day you’ve planned versus practical considerations. Our policy is to move anyone who wishes to move within the 12 week window. We understand that planning a wedding with current levels of uncertainty is difficult, and have spent a lot of time working with our clients to come up with a sustainable plan that works for both parties.
Q: Why have I been asked to pay my deposit this year if my event is postponed to next year?
DG: From our discussions with other venues and in our own experience, it seems that this is mainly so that your venue and supplier needs to know that you are as committed to your new postponed date as much as they are. To provide a truly fair environment, Dine has offered clients the ability to pay over 6 monthly periods where a deposit has fallen due under the original date and we have deferred our other deposit payments in accordance with the new date.
Q: Can I get a full refund if I cancel my event due to Covid19?
MJ: If you decide, once considering all available options, that your preference is to cancel your wedding, then our standard terms of business will apply. There has been much written about ‘frustrated contracts’. However, we believe that our cancellation terms are more favourable than the costs that would be incurred if the contract was proven to be frustrated. We have also received legal advice to this effect. A policy whereby we refunded all deposits to any client wishing to cancel, would undermine the commitment by which all other clients and stakeholders have been so supportive of us during Covid19.
Q; I will be happy for my Celebration to proceed once lockdown is over, so long as guidance allows. What should I expect from my supplier and venues?
DG: Most suppliers will already have a risk assessment in place for working when social distancing regulations are revised and you can always ask to see this.
More importantly, venues should be able to offer you alternatives for higher risk guests so that, for example, elderly grandparents can still be a part of your day. For example, we offer clients a range of options in this respect, including the ability to have the equivalent meal delivered anywhere in the UK with a bottle of prosecco, via our service at www.dinedelivered.co.uk. Our Event Managers can also arrange live streaming of your ceremony and speeches.
Q: Can I reduce my guest numbers if restrictions allow for smaller gatherings?
MJ: We did find in September 2020 that we were able to requote* & then deliver a small number of weddings for 30 guests. However, the uncertainty around restrictions lifting and what conditions may be on the day, made planning and delivery a challenge for all involved. Whereas we are willing to work with clients to find solutions that work for everyone, moving the contract to an alternative date is in most cases the safest option.
*95% of our wedding quotes are based on 80 guests or upwards, so a revised itemised quote for new guest numbers is needed once there is certainty that number would be allowed under government guidelines.
Matt comments: ‘Dine have been operating for nearly 23 years, and in this time we’ve never experienced a year like this. The unpredictability of restrictions has understandably been difficult for everyone and as ever, our thoughts are always with our couples who are navigating what should be an exciting time planning their special day, through the minefield of the pandemic.
We hope that you will be reassured that we are doing our very best to help and meet the requests of our clients and couples, whilst still maintaining a sustainable business and ensuring that we can still be here with our team to deliver events when the pandemic is over. Ultimately we hope that we are managing to address the issues of all of our clients. If you feel this is not the case, please speak with us directly to try and resolve any issues you have by using the chat function on our website, calling 0345 450 4545 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.