Real Life Stories: A New Vision For The Fox Inn, Farnham

pub business, let a pub
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 19/06/2017 - 10:00

Matt Eaton is the landlord of The Fox Inn in Farnham, alongside his brother Nick, and brother-in-law Simon Marshall. They took on their local pub in October 2016 when the lease became available, in part because Simon had always said “one of these days I’ll have to buy that pub.”

While the Eaton brothers, and their sister, have a history in the pub trade having grown up with publican parents, it is Simon’s vision that has driven the refurbishment and redevelopment of the Fox.

We spoke to Matt and Rob Marshall (Simon’s brother and Head of Pub Operations) about the pub, the redevelopment of the site, and their plans for the future. We hope this will provide some inspiration and insights into how pubs like the Fox can be transformed to create a profitable business model and a vibrant community hub in towns and villages across the UK.

Meet The Family!

The Fox Inn is a family concern, with Matt, Simon and Nick at its helm supported by the family business Marshall Eaton. Day-to-day operations are Matt and Rob Marshall’s responsibility, but other family members are also involved. Simon has the big picture; a vision for transforming the pub and creating a business model that can be rolled out across other suitable pubs in the future.

Matt and Nick’s wives, their mother Pam, and sister Lucy are also involved in the family business, and head office support is provided through their company Marshall Eaton Holdings.

It’s a very professional operation but with the family at its heart.

“One of these days, I’ll have to buy that pub”

So why the Fox?

Rob: “The pub is in a great demographic area. There are a lot of people living around here, even though it looks like a leafy village.”

Matt: “We saw the opportunity in this pub. We want to keep it a village pub; we want it to be a pub for everybody. So you want to come and have a pint and a packet of crisps, bring your dog in, watch some football and have a chat amongst friends, or listen to a bit of music. Or if you want to come in and have a casual lunch, we have the bar and lounge area. Or you can come for fine dining upstairs or have a private dining experience. We cater for everybody.”

The pub has been extensively refurbished inside, creating more trading space across the entire building. Downstairs is the bar and lounge area where customers can drink and also eat, whereas upstairs (formerly the pub’s accommodation) is a large dining room, snug and private dining area for parties and groups. By the summer the new garden will also be open, increasing trading space outside as well as in.

Rob: “We’re very confident that this will be a success. A lot of money has been spent on the interior of the pub, and getting it open. We’ve had nothing but praise from people regarding the appearance of the pub and what we’ve done to it.”

Marshall Eaton have also extended the pub’s opening hours, now opening at 8 am for breakfast and coffee.

Rob: “We get builders and roofers coming in for breakfast in the morning, even though we’re not cheap but it’s a great quality breakfast.

“We’ve also got two schools nearby and parents use our car park to take their children to school. So we’re opening early for coffee and pastries so parents can come after dropping the kids off.”

Matt: “One of the reasons that Simon wanted to get a pub was he wanted somewhere to take his kids after school to get food between 3 and 5 o’clock.

“Our expansion now will develop this more. So more families in garden during the summer time. We’re putting up individual cabanas at the top of the garden for families and groups, with heaters so parents can watch the kids running around, we’ll have the pizza oven going.”

A Great Food Offer

A major focus of the Fox’s redevelopment and business plan has been the food offer. A new kitchen is currently under construction, which will ensure the pub can cater for the predicted increases in trade when the garden is open in the summer.

Rob: “The kitchen we have at the moment can’t do the amount of covers we’ll need when the garden is opened. So we’re adding a new kitchen outside, and the old one will become more trading space inside the pub.

“The kitchen will joined to the pub with a glass atrium, which will include a chef’s dining area so customers can watch the chef and see into the kitchen. We’ll also have a display of meat where we will cut steaks and chops to the customer’s preferences. The kitchen will have access to the garden with an outside bar and food service area for the garden.”

With a large fine-dining room upstairs, a private dining room, more covers downstairs when the old kitchen is converted into trading space, and an extensive garden, the kitchen will be extremely busy.

Rob: “We’ve got a fantastic chef and the food is great. But we do need something we can hang our hat on so we’ve decided that we’re going to become the best steakhouse in the area, our steaks are going to be fantastic. We’re going to be doing very high-class steaks, so people know that if they want a steak they come to the Fox.

Another USP for the Fox is the desserts, which Pam Eaton is responsible for. She also has her own signature dishes, having spent 25 years in the pub trade making everything herself.

And Drinks?

The Fox is situated in an affluent area of Surrey and the team have aligned both the food and drink offer with this market. From coffee, to beer, to spirits and wine. For example, parents using the pub car park to take their children to school want more than a filter coffee when they could visit any of the coffee chains in the town.

Rob: “People in this area expect great coffee, you can’t just have a coffee filter machine you need to do it right. Great food, great beer, great coffee. One of the other things we did was changed the lagers, instead of doing Carlsberg, Fosters, Carling we’re offering premium range lagers because that’s what people expect.

“The same with all our spirits and wine. We’ve just added a fantastic new wine menu and we’ve also added a gin bar, with 40 different gins. In the summer we’ll also be doing cocktails.”

As with any business it’s important to understand your target market and provide them with the service or product they expect. No more so than in the pub trade where your success will depend on loyal and regular customers, as well as word of mouth recommendations.

Since we spoke to Matt Eaton about the Fox Inn and plans for the future for this blog post, the company directors have now brought in Andrew Cordwell to head up Marshall Eaton Leisure and help establish a chain of pubs based on their flagship model. Andrew has extensive experience in the F&B industry working with well known brands such as Pitcher and Piano, Marstons Thompson & Evershed, John Lewis & Waitrose and Toosies. Rob Marshall continues to drive the development of the pub business model at the Fox, with the support of two assistant managers.  

It’s obvious that the team at the Fox understand this and have spotted an opportunity to provide residents in the local area with exactly what they want.

If you’ve been inspired by their story and would like to explore taking on a pub lease or pub tenancy for yourself, contact our team to get started.