"Use it or lose it," an Essex pub manager has urged ahead of National Hospitality Day.

Tracy Wilson, who runs The Welsh Princess in Rayne, said the motto rings true for many businesses in the Dunmow area which have faced 18 months of disruption during the pandemic.

She is one of several hospitality leaders to praise patrons for showing a strong community spirit ahead of National Hospitality Day 2021, which takes place on Saturday (September 18).

She said: "We're so lucky. We have such a big, supportive community here, so we have been able to carry on.

"That's not the story everywhere. It's more often than not a case of 'use it or lose it'.

"That's been the motto ever since I started working in hospitality.

"So many pubs have closed throughout the country, and we don't want that to happen.

"My message is: Get out and use your local!"

Dunmow Broadcast: Music at the Welsh Princess pub. Picture: Roger KingMusic at the Welsh Princess pub. Picture: Roger King (Image: Roger King/Saffron Photo)

Tracy said she is "proud" of The Welsh Princess's role in the community.

More than just a watering hole, Tracy regularly holds fundraising events for community groups and 'Open Mic Sessions' nights.

But according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of pubs in the East of England declined by 23% between 2001 and 2020.

Pubs, cafés and restaurants then faced trading restrictions in March 2020.

Many baristas have said they are ready to return to normal service.

Dunmow Broadcast: Chameleon Café back in action in Great DunmowChameleon Café back in action in Great Dunmow (Image: Alan Stratton)

Alan Stratton at Chameleon Café, Dunmow said: "Don't be afraid to come out and support a small business.

"We are noticing more people having the confidence - day by day - to get out in Dunmow and get that sense of normality back."

Alan said that grants from local authorities have enabled him to adapt his outdoor seating area for the winter months by installing heat lamps.

He said: "We can accommodate you wherever you feel most comfortable."

Fordes home store on Chelmsford Road Industrial Estate opened a new café earlier this year.

Gavin, who runs the café, said: "We're tucked away from the town centre, but people have been spreading the word and we're really grateful to everyone who has done that.

"There is such a strong community spirit in Dunmow. That's what keeps us going.

"I think it's great that we're a place where people can meet up - something which I think we all appreciate more than ever."

Dunmow Broadcast: Events have been held to celebrate food and drink in Dunmow, such as the Summer Market which featured MasterChef: The Professionals winner Alex WebbEvents have been held to celebrate food and drink in Dunmow, such as the Summer Market which featured MasterChef: The Professionals winner Alex Webb (Image: Saffron Photo 2021)

Andy Coleman, who owns the Dunmow-based House Group, said there is "every reason" to be optimistic about the future of hospitality.

The House Group runs a pop-up bar company as well as the Flitch House, Cork House and Market House in north-west Essex, all of which are "busy".

Andy said: "Even with the stop-start scenario, when opened again, we were busy.

"Thank you to our regulars for coming back to us!

"When we couldn't open, our staff got lots of messages of support. I got phone calls from regulars checking up on me to make sure that I was alright.

"We see these people so regularly, sometimes more than we see our families, so getting back to normal means a lot.

"It's great that there's a day like National Hospitality Day to fly the flag and give a shout-out to the sector.

"When we closed, it impacted everyone - the suppliers in the area, farmers, brewers, our staff."

To celebrate the food and drink industry, four charities supporting businesses and workers have teamed up to host National Hospitality Day.

The National Hospitality Day website reads: "We’re challenging restaurants, hotels, pubs and foodservice providers up and down the land to pull out all the stops to put on a damned good show and give the nation a reason to fill your tills."

Customers are being urged to support a small business and donate to one of the four charities - The Drinks Trust, Hospitality Action, The Licensed Trade Charity, or Springboard.

More information about National Hospitality Day 2021 is online: https://www.nationalhospitalityday.org.uk/