Real Life Stories - Investing In Your Staff To Grow Your Pub Business

training staff, pub staff, running a pub
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Tue, 03/04/2018 - 10:00

Tracey Parmee has been at The Red Lion in Bletchingley for 11 years. At the end of 2017 she took on a second site, The Woodman in Goathurst Common. Perhaps the most important factor in her decision to become a multi-site operator was her staff. In this post we interview Tracey to find out more about how her staff are an intrinsic part of the success of both her pubs.

Having The Right Pub Staff

Having established a successful pub business, many pub operators look at growing their existing business by adding another site. By her own admission Tracey says she never had a plan to become a multi-site operator, but as a successful business owner she was always looking for opportunities to do more and provide opportunities for her 40+ staff.

Tracey Parmee:“One of the reasons [for taking on The Woodman] is that I needed to promote my own staff. At The Red Lion I was outgrowing space for the people who work for me. So if I hadn’t got another place I would have lost them because they needed to do more.”

“If I didn’t already have the people ready to go into positions, it probably wouldn’t have worked. They know how I work, what I expect, the attention to detail, so now I just need to guide them and help them work here.”

Tracey has extensive experience of managing staff. Prior to taking on The Red Lion she worked for Mitchell’s and Butler’s in the managed house division, running pubs and managing their teams. From the outset at The Red Lion her focus has always been on getting the best out of people so that they do their best for her business.

TP:“I was in managed for a long time, and area management, and worked with the training department a lot. I think that’s why I’m quite good at looking at people and understanding what staff need.

The Importance Of Training

Having well trained staff is not only about ensuring they have the skills to do their jobs, but also about investing in their personal development and careers. As Tracey says, if you don’t provide opportunities for your staff they will end up going elsewhere. The fallout from that is that operators face high employee turnover rates, and as a result lack important skills within the business.

TP:“I do a lot of training with my staff. Anything that comes up, I put them on it. Two of them are doing Level 4 NVQs at the moment: it’s hard for them to do, and fit into a fulltime job, but they do because they want it. I’ve always done the same myself. If there were opportunities for training I would take them, over and above my fulltime job. 

“I remember as a manager for M&B a lot of the managers that I worked with wouldn’t send their staff for training because it came out of their employment costs. They found it hard to justify sending their managers off for a 3 day course, and cover them. But then they can’t move their people forward because they’re not investing in them.

“Two of my people are on a WSET wine course, even though at this time of year it’s a quiet period – I’ve still got to cover them. But I think it’s important because when they come back they’re going to be uplifted and with skills that will help the business.”

Providing Staff With Opportunity

For Tracey, taking on a new site has given her the opportunity to promote staff and give them responsibility and new challenges. It also means that she is able to take a step back from managing day-to-day activities, and delegate those responsibilities to key members of staff.

TP:“I don’t get involved with everything here [The Woodman], or at the Red Lion, I let the managers do it. We have a weekly meeting where we talk about staffing, what we’re going to do next, events, and maintenance. That’s the way I’ve always worked, when I was in Managed too.”

With a new site Tracey has also been able to promote staff and give them new roles and opportunities within the business.

TP: “I love the fact that I’ve got all these people working for me who are building their careers and getting something out of it. Getting the second site has enabled that to happen because we were top heavy in one site.

“I’ve taken my head chef from the Red Lion, who’s been with me for 8 years, and I’ve made him Executive Chef so that he works across both the pubs and mentors the sous chefs. We’ve put the same menu in because I think that’s important to have that quality and consistency, but I let the chefs at each pub do their own specials. They’ve got their own inspiration and opportunity to do something different.

“It means I also have a ‘roaming chef’ so that if I’ve got any issues anywhere I can send him. Or if I’ve got a function and need more help, I’ve got that. 

“We’ve got a huge kitchen here [at The Woodman], one of our chefs at The Red Lion is into pastry but we don’t have the room there for him to prep. So he comes over here once a fortnight and spends a day in the prep room doing something that he really enjoys. Having both sites means that the kitchen team have a bit more interest. They’re not just producing core pub food, but also getting involved in catering for functions and so on.”

Key People Within Your Business

While it is important that a pub operator takes a hands on approach when a new site is launched, ultimately their role is to oversee all operations and delegate many management responsibilities to key people within their team.

TP: “A lot of my key people are family. Two of my sons work in the business, my niece works in the business. I also go for a balance, I do like some older people, especially front of house, you cannotjust have all young people. 

I’ve also got an events manager who also does marketing and social media for me. She’s one of my managers and has a real feel for it. That’s another way I’m providing opportunities for staff. At one time she would also work in the business, on a shift, but now she’s got so much work that the only day she works in the business is on Sunday.

“Everyone works on Sunday, because it’s so busy and that’s where we make a lot of the money.”

While Tracey is not planning to retire anytime soon, we asked what her hopes are for the future of the business.

TP:“I would like to see my sons continuing to run successful businesses, using everything they’ve learnt from me and continuing to nurture their teams. I think it’s a great business for anyone to be in, as long as they’re doing it in the right way.”

Advice For Pub Operators

Tracey is a great example of a pub operator who is growing their business with their people. Taking on another site without a team behind you is extremely difficult. As Tracey says, she if hadn’t got existing staff ready to step up into positions in the new business it probably wouldn’t have worked.

Therefore if you’re thinking of expanding your pub business, our advice is to look at your existing team and identify how to ensure they have the skills needed to help you grow your business.

TP:“Have key people ready and waiting to go into that site, not get them after you’ve got it. You can use it when you appraise your staff. If they’re ready to run a site, you can say ‘I’ll start looking for a site for you’, that’s a good way to do it.

“If you’re doing a good job [pub operators] of running a pub, you’re always looking for what you can do next. A lot of it is for your people, because you can’t keep good people unless you can offer them something more. They need to grow.”

If you’re thinking about becoming a multi-site operator our training course is a good place to start. You don’t have to be a Greene King operator to attend this course, anyone who is considering growing their business with another site will find it beneficial. Details of can be found here.