How a Young Apprentice Started His Own Pub Business

Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 15/02/2016 - 10:00

How young is too young to start a business? If you want to run a pub, then it seems the answer could be as young as 19. Taking his apprenticeship skills and grabbing the opportunity when it appeared, Thomas Parkhurst has proved how anyone with the right ambition can run a successful pub.

After leaving school Thomas’ friends were all going to college and university, but he felt that wasn’t right for him. Instead he began an apprenticeship in hospitality, choosing to work at the Four Horseshoes. An historic pub set in the heart of Suffolk, the Four Horseshoes is the quintessential British inn, with a thatched roof and striking pink facade.

After finishing his apprenticeship and working at a couple of other pubs in the area, Thomas began to develop his own ideas about how a successful pub should be run and what he would do differently. It was at that point that Greene King Pub Partners started looking for a new tenant and landlord at the Four Horseshoes.

“When I saw the lease was available I jumped at the chance” says Thomas, “I knew the pub well and I was confident that I could make it a success.”

Vision

Such a traditional pub might not be the obvious choice for a 19-year-old with business aspirations but Thomas knew the location and the community well. With its combination of food, drink and seven B&B rooms, he also knew the Four Horseshoes offered a great opportunity to generate good income.

“When I took on the lease, I was the youngest licensee in Britain. That gave me a huge boost. The PR that my age generated was amazing and helped me to establish myself. However, people soon see through the dazzle if you are not on top of your game. I have had to back it up with the highest standards of service so people keep coming back.”

Despite what you might occasionally read in the media, good pubs are thriving. There is a consistent theme to the success of pubs today and it requires the business to know its customers and to be in good communication with them – something that Thomas wholeheartedly advocates.

Community

“I want the Four Horseshoes to be the heart and soul of the village. People can see it is kept beautifully and it advertises to everybody that I take pride in my business. I like to think the pub is my marketing tool.”

“I’m very careful about the entertainment I put on so I don’t ruin the atmosphere. That means no TVs and no sport although we do have music nights, usually playing folk or traditional music.”

The rise of social media is obviously an important marketing tool and many pubs use it with great success. You might think this would especially be the case for a 19-year-old – as he was when he took on the pub –  but Thomas is reflective on how he uses Facebook.

“I use Facebook now and then, to keep in touch with people. But really, I know everybody in the village and they know me too. That’s a much better way of keeping people posted about what is going on.”

So what else has played a part in the success of the Four Horseshoes? As you might imagine Thomas is a strong advocate for apprenticeships and along with the support he gets from Greene King, they have played a strong part in his successful team.

“I am a big fan of apprenticeships because that is how I got my big break. I took on the pub in 2008 and since then I have trained more than 20 apprentices. It’s great that I have been able to shape people’s lives for the good and share my ideas of how good pubs should be managed.”

“My relationship with Greene King is excellent. Other pub companies leave their tenanted landlords to work on their own but not them. I don’t have to use their services but they are always helpful and support me when I need it. I reckon they deserve a 10 out of 10!”

Thomas Parkhurst’s story is a pretty inspirational insight into the opportunity that running a pub offers. At just 19 with desire, experience and commitment to offer the highest standards to the local community, he has turned the Four Horseshoes into a successful business with great prospects.

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