Three Cups, Bedford

Written by: Sarah Milward
Date added: Wed, 17/02/2016 - 14:01

A pub that sells our own beer

In 2007, Alan and his brother Peter set up the White Park Brewery. They both loved their beer and were pleased to find that other people loved it too, so they began to sell it to local pubs and restaurants. Word spread and so did their popularity – now they even supply guest beers for a well-known pub chain.

However, what they really wanted was an outlet where they could sell their beer, but, this was not easy to find. Most pub companies tied them into stock agreements which meant they couldn’t sell their own brew, and pubs that were free-of-tie were expensive and impractical.

‘We knew what we wanted to do but were frustrated,’ says Alan. ‘That’s when a friend, Beverly-Jo Burridge, suggested the Three Cups as a possible solution. We had been talking about working together for years. Beverly had been managing the pub and knew exactly what the place needed. It had been a great business but had gradually seen sales decline over the years and needed a new injection of life.’

Greene King agreed with them and suggested that the Local Hero concept was a perfect way to achieve what they wanted. This Tenancy Agreement is only 50% tied for beer, which means they can stock and sell their own products alongside Greene King’s famous stable of traditional cask ales. What’s more, Beverly wanted to continue running the pub too, so it was an easy solution to appoint her as the pub’s manager.

When they took on the business it was what Alan calls ‘a men’s boozer’. Alan took time to meet customers and understand the business. They decided that the Local Hero concept would work on many levels, enabling them to refocus the business. Thanks to a friendlier atmosphere and the hard work of all the staff at the Three Cups, the male to female ratio of customers is now 50/50.

To firmly position the Three Cups as part of the community, they needed someone who could prepare simple, fresh food using local ingredients. They found Denise, a chef who lived nearby, and talked to her about providing a traditional, home cooked pub menu. They make every effort to source the best ingredients they can. For example, their new menu uses locally-reared beef from cattle fed with the spent grain from the brewery. Ham, egg and twice-cooked chips are the most popular dish they serve, ‘If you cook simple food, the ingredients speak for themselves,’ says Alan. ‘We also like to add little surprises to keep customers interested – like bringing out freshly baked pork pies in the evenings. They soon get snapped up!’

Beverly’s husband, Pete, is in charge of music for a nearby nightclub, so music and entertainment have also played a big part in the pub’s revival. They have a regular ‘Old Geezer’ band as well as folk music and other live musicians. This is supplemented by quiz nights, which keep customers coming back.

Traditionally, the Three Cups had been a winter pub and Alan’s new project has been to develop the garden and provide an amazing outside space for customers. ‘It’s going to add a completely new dimension to the business and boost profits too. Customers have already started using it and the whole thing will be open and ready for the summer 2015 holidays,’ Alan adds.

Before starting on this journey, Alan had a background in technology and finance. ‘There’s one thing for certain’ he says, ‘The Three Cups has one of the best run operating systems in the business. It may be overkill for just one pub but we don’t intend to stop there. This gives us a ready-made solution for expanding our empire – we may eventually plan to have several pubs up and running!’