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Now there is such thing as a free lunch

PUBLISHED: 10:10 31 March 2009 | UPDATED: 08:05 01 August 2010

THE old adage is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

But the regulars of a pub in Wissett, near Halesworth, know differently, after enjoying exactly that for the past six months.

THE old adage is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

But the regulars of a pub in Wissett, near Halesworth, know differently, after enjoying exactly that for the past six months.

Monday lunchtimes, traditionally the quietest time of the week for pubs, at The Plough are now pulling in credit crunch-busters from 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 noon 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.

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 also Halesworth, Reydon and Beccles. 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 our busiest week day,” he said. “We do get a lot of other landlords coming in thinking we're crazy, but it works.”

He added: “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.”

Pamela Beard, from Halesworth, who described the food as “excellent” said: “There's plenty of choice to suit everybody. It's a nice idea - it gets people in, and at least it keeps the pub open.”

Her husband, Derrick, agreed: “If they all come in and buy drinks, it's a big income. Drink is the reason why the pubs are closing down, which is a shame. It's a good idea for a Monday.”

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.

“There's no way this pub would survive on people coming in willy-nilly,” said Mr Sumner.

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.

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