Crown, Gayton, Norfolk

Written by: Sarah Milward
Date added: Thu, 20/09/2018 - 10:33

Getting The Details Right

Earlier in 2018, Lisa Brindle and Neil Staples took on The Crown at Gayton in Norfolk. It’s their first pub and they admit it has been a steep learning curve. With the help of Greene King, they have been building a solid business, and now they have been in the pub a few months, they know what they need to do for a planned investment project.

LISA and Neil were originally from Bury St Edmunds, but moved to South Wootton in Norfolk three years ago. With four children now grown up, they were looking for a new challenge. They had previously run a website design company together and it might seem like a big leap to make a move into the pub industry.

‘We’ve been around pubs for most of our lives,’ says Neil, ‘Lisa grew up in one and we built websites for pub clients, so we felt we knew about hospitality.’

‘We’ll be honest and say that this wasn’t our first choice of business as we were looking for more of a ‘party’ pub. But we knew the Crown well, as it was only a few miles from where we live, and Greene King promised to invest money into the business to help support us. It was good advice as we have ‘learned the ropes’ in a business that suits us well.’

Setting Up

‘The training Pub Partners offers is amazing and we understand why it has won awards. Coming from outside the industry, we were keen to soak up as much information as possible and realised that there were experts on hand to answer all our questions. Having run a business before, we felt confident that we knew what we were doing with business planning, but the training team added a huge amount of value and taught us how to measure our profitability and put in place checks and balances so we could see things quickly and take action.’

‘We were introduced to the Pub Partners Food & Supplies Service has been great for us too and has really helped to drive margin from our food. Once we were set up, everything has been easy to order and the dishes are simple to prepare. The Crown was known for its epic Sunday lunches and we can still continue with this tradition by ordering from Greene King. However, now we knew how to check our margins, we realised that another great tradition of serving discounted leftovers on Monday wasn’t earning us any money. Sometimes we were ordering spares, so we had enough leftovers, which didn’t make business sense.’

‘The pub hasn’t been known for sport, but we decided, at the last minute, to put up a marquee in the garden and create a football zone showing the England matches this summer. We even added some arm chairs so it was a really welcoming space. Keeping the sport apart from the rest of the pub was a good move, it attracted new customers without alienating the people who already visited us.’

Learning About Our Business

‘Even though we don’t live onsite, I find it hard to separate personal and business life,’ says Lisa. ‘At the beginning, someone commented that the curtains needed a clean and I was shocked – as if they had come into my home and made the same comment!’

‘Our village is fairly small and the previous tenant was well-known to everybody. TUPE (Transfer Of Undertakings) legislation meant that we took on many of the same staff as before, but we wanted to make changes and it hasn’t always been easy getting the team to embrace new ideas. We’re the first to admit that we don’t always get things right, but we are positive people and we don’t let any negative comments get us down. Villagers are starting to notice things are changing and even those who were wary at first are coming back to the pub.’

‘On the first day we opened, the Environmental Health Officer came for a surprise inspection. We didn’t do so well, but our positive approach helped us with that too. We asked them for guidance and they worked with us to improve things. Now we are being held up as a flagship case for best practice by the regional team.’

Future Plans

‘Greene King was already committed to a capital investment, but having been here for a season, we are starting to get a feel for how the business works. It’s too easy to get excited by the plans and overlook some of the practicalities – for example, when the restaurant is busy there is too much congestion around the doorway that overcrowds the bar. As a result, Greene King is changing the plans to make a separate entrance and ensure a better flow.’

‘Having been so active in social media, I want to get to grips with marketing the business more effectively’, says Lisa. ‘Neil is going to build some quirky chicken houses with crooked chimney pots and bright coloured walls. Then I am going to start talking about the hens online, giving them names and personalities. It will be a great draw for family customers and we’ll encourage children to follow us so that they will want to come back. This was part of our original business plan and Greene King was impressed with our original thinking – having run social media for other pub clients, I know that this is bound to get people talking about us!’