The White Horse, Sudbury

Written by: Sarah Milward
Date added: Thu, 19/01/2017 - 09:59

How do you grow your business and develop your team?

Debi Sickelmore and Alan Monks already run two successful pubs in London, they were looking for a way to grow and develop their managers.

‘We like to think we look after our employees,’ says Debi, ‘a while back one of our managers was looking to run his own pub and we helped where we could. He took a tenancy with another company. We still keep in touch with him and he often asks for our advice, but we always felt there was more we could do to help him.’

Developing talented people

‘There are loads of really talented young managers in the hospitality industry but moving on to running their own pub business is a big step and most people can’t afford it. Most managers hit this ceiling and there isn’t anywhere else to progress to. We feel that’s contributing to the fact that hospitality isn’t always treated as a professional career. If people could see there was a real career progression, they would be more motivated.’

‘We had been running two busy central London pubs – the Duke of York and the Grafton Arms for several years and had bought a house in Finchingfield, Essex. The London businesses are often quite predictable and so we decided to look around Finchingfield for another business nearer our new home, but this didn’t quite work out how we intended and we realised the new pub would need a lot of work.’

‘Greene King suggested that we consider The White Horse in Sudbury. They were prepared to refurbish the business and would work with us to ensure that this town-centre pub offered something unique in the high street.’

‘Ashley had been working with us for six years and Gary for two so we knew them well. They decided to get engaged and we felt that we wanted to help them. The Grafton Arms didn’t really serve food on a Saturday and Ashley suggested that there might be a way to increase trade – so we said go ahead! As a bonus, we agreed that any extra profits they made could be put towards their wedding fund!’

‘It’s amazing what motivated people can do, and we realised that the next step for them both would be to start their new life together with a pub to run for themselves. The White Horse would be great for them and we’re pleased to say they are proving us right!’

Keeping check on business

‘We haven’t abandoned them – after weekends at Finchingfield, it’s only a 20 minute drive into Sudbury so we often visit on Mondays to check stock and discuss plans.’

‘Outside of face-to-face visits, Greene King systems like online ordering make it easy for me to see how the business is doing. I’m also on the end of the phone if there are any problems – we’ve been there before (and got the t-shirts to prove it) but something like a non-delivery of product can be really unsettling if you are running a new business.’

Manager’s view

Text: Ashley Coote and Gary Addison have been running the White Horse for a couple of months now. We interviewed them to find out how things were going...

‘This has been a brilliant opportunity for us and things are going really well’, said Ashley, ‘it’s quite a different business from running a pub in the centre of London and we are still learning.’

A tale of two cities

‘Although we had our regulars in London, a lot of customers were just passing through and if you tried something and it didn’t work, you knew that people wouldn’t notice. In Sudbury, everybody knows everything and word gets around really quickly. You would think that meant we were packed out every time we did something new but it doesn’t quite work like that. People pass on recommendations slowly so we have to keep at it to make a success.’

‘We have a few competitor pubs in the town and I am trying to build our reputation for consistently good service and great products. A reputation like that takes time to establish, but we are playing a long game here – I can be patient. I’m thinking about introducing a breakfast service as this is lacking in the town. If we do, we have to be sure it’s right so I may start small. Any negative comments seem to travel faster than the positive ones!’

‘I’m still getting used to the cycle of the pub. In London, we knew when we’d be busy, things were generally quiet when people were not at work. Here it’s the opposite – the town is busy at weekends.’

‘Opening a pub from scratch has been a great experience and we have learned that you need to embrace things as they happen. Originally, we were looking for a chef to run the kitchen but as we couldn’t recruit someone, Gary took over. Now we are finding it tough to get someone in to do the job and meet Gary’s high standards!