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Keith Richardson, FBII - Goathland Hotel

Every BII member is unique and we love sharing their journeys through the years with our 10,000 strong network. Max Burke MBII asked Keith Richardson from the Goathland Hotel, better known as the Aidensfield Arms from popular TV drama, Heartbeat about his passion for pubs and how they have successfully run their pub for nearly 40 years. 

How did you come to be at The Goathland Hotel? Are you tenanted with Punch Pubs?
My wife Jean’s family had lived in Goathland previously and we had our Wedding Reception here in 1974.  It started with a New Years Day conversation together in 1985 which then turned into us applying to buy the Lease with Punch.

The pub has been run by your family for the past four decades - how did the pub come to be such a vital part of your family’s lives?
As my wife had previous family living here, we already knew many people and the village lifestyle.  We actually have family that ran this pub back in the early 1900's.  Our children went to the same village school that their grandfather did and moving from Mortlake, it offered a peaceful and attractive way of life.  Running The Jolly Gardeners in Mortlake was great, but we wanted a pub with rooms and the pub and hotel in Goathland offered our young family so much more.

How did your customers react during and after the Coronavirus pandemic?
Our customers were very sympathetic and when coming back many were very cautious.  However, we gained a great many repeat customers to our tourist hot spot when they saw how high we kept our cleaning standards.

During and since Covid there has been an increase in the number of people who are opting to take their holidays in the UK instead of going abroad. Having that accommodation option for customers, how have you taken advantage of this, and did you see an upturn in bookings?
Yes, we have definitely seen a reawakening as to what a UK holiday can offer and also the short escape, not pinning all their energy on 2 weeks.  We have increased our advance minimum stay to 3 nights, a great way to ckeep costs down.

Is social media important to the way you run the business?

Yes, our media take is slightly different and we use it as a village focus.  After all, the more reasons to visit the better, and it encourages people to stay for  longer.

The pub is well known for being used as the Aidensfield Arms in Heartbeat, did this positively affect footfall for the business?
Absolutely, it's brought the North Yorkshire Moors worldwide tourism.  It’s been great to welcome visitors from as far afield as Scandinavia, Canada, OZ & NZ.

The village is infamous for another reason -  Goathland station, located a stone’s throw from the hotel, was used in one of the Harry Potter films. Did this affect the number of visitors to the town and therefore the pub? 
It was a lovely extra to our popular village.  Coaches of 50 Japanese students will suddenly file past the pub to The 'Hogwarts' Station.

What are some of your key considerations now in the current climate?
Our focus currently is being aware of the little things, from each bill and what's necessary or can be negotiated.  We try to ensire each customer leaves wanting to come back again.

How do you balance the menu so it yields the highest GP? What’s your best dish for GP?
Our menus are designed with our customers in mind as such we run a small menu and serve a lot of each dish!  Our best GP has to be Ham, Eggs with chips or Sausage, Eggs with chips.

What is your menu like? Do you think it’s important to cater to different tastes and say have a vegan option?

Absolutely -  we have had a Gluten free menu for over 15 years and now have vegan options always available from 'Meatballs' to Macaroni.

Do you work with a chef to create menus or is this something you like to manage?
No - we are a Husband and Wife team through and through.  My wife is the Cook, along with a management team.

Have you been in touch with other local businesses during this time?
We have always worked closely with the Steam railway and have a great working relationship with our local suppliers.
When times are tough working closely with your local suppliers is invaluable.  We have seen so many challenges, particularly as a rural business.  fromthe cost of living crisis or running out of logs in a snowy winter.  
Heartbeat started filming in 1991,  and we were asked by Keith Richardson the  executive producer at the time if we could be used for a Pilot series of 6 episodes.  Little did we know that it would not finish until 2008 and is still repeated everyday!  Whilst it was an incredible opportunity, it created many challenges and there was no other business the same that we could draw support or expertise from.  To be honest the closest was a Disney training course!

The pub is now up for sale, how and why have you come to this decision?
We love the working in this industry, it is a great life and lifestyle but as I'm about to be 80 and my wife is 75 we would like to travel some more and visit friends and family, so are going to be retiring shortly.

Do you have any tips for the licensee(s) that takes over the pub?
Embrace the village and all that is, from Heartbeat and Harry Potter to the Steam Railway and walking the Moors. Afterall, if you are passionate about it you can sell it to others to enjoy.

Why did you decide to join the BII?
We decided to join the BII as a member a long time ago, they provide great advice that is industry specific at the touch of a button.

Why would you recommend the BII to a fellow industry professional?
We would recommend the BII to anyone in the trade, new or old because nobody walks in knowing everything and if you do, the rules soon change.

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