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The BII thrives on the diversity of its 10,000 plus members, and through case studies and interviews we're able to find out more about some of the individuals that make up our network in the licensed trade.

Click on any of the links below to read about the personal experience and benefits individuals have found since becoming members of the BII.

Terry Lee, FBII - Leo's Red Lion

Terry Lee FBII is one of our longest standing members, having run Leo’s Red Lion, his pub in Gravesend, for as long as the BII has been around. With over 40 years in the trade, Terry has some truly incredible stories and lessons to share from his time at Leo’s.

The BII’s Peter Baskett MBII reports.

Leo’s Red Lion is not your typical pub – how many pubs do you know that have hosted the likes of Iron Maiden, Samson and Steve Marriott? Terry Lee FBII considers Leo’s to be more of a small venue than a pub, as they regularly feature British rock artists in their popular weekend music events.

Coming from a background in music as a DJ and promoter, he recalls how he originally took on the lease for the pub, which was conveniently adjoined to an old factory. He eventually 
got the freehold and transformed the venue into a staple for local rock fans.

“The lease on the factory next door expired and that’s when they approached me to ask if I would be interested in the pub.

“I had to take a lease out, and then I eventually got the freehold. To be 
perfectly honest, if I hadn’t had bought the freehold, I’ve got no doubt that the place would have been shut along with the other 10 pubs along this road.”

Terry explains how being resourceful has been key to his pub’s longevity. For example, when he first came into possession of the factory, rather than throw out the old workbenches, he decided to repurpose them.

“It had about 10 of these, what I call Victorian weld benches, which are bloomin’ solid, you 
know, four-inch legs on them – you could put a car on them. I removed all of these benches and, like Tetris, put them up one end and then covered them with inch ply. And I looked 
at them and thought, I know what to do – and to this day, that is the stage.”

Pubs are not only about food and drink; they’re also about community and entertainment, which is what Leo’s excels at. Talking about the recent shift in how people engage with pubs, Terry explains how he converted a quiet bar of his into a local boxing club, to make use of the space and to give back to the community.

 “My other half asked me when was the last time I had used that bar? It is the size of most pubs and I wasn’t using it because not enough people came here. So, when I saw that the children didn’t have a club anymore, I let them use it.”

Giving back to the community in this way builds loyalty among the locals, which is paid back to Terry when he hosts social functions.
“When we hold family functions, like our firework display in November, we’ve got 200 children, mums and dads out the front, half of whom come from the boxing club. It’s second to none, literally, there is not a fireworks display that matches it.”

Adapting your business to the current climate requires creative use of the resources available to you. Leo’s is fortunate enough to benefit from a large space, which they put to good use. When the pandemic rolled around and the venue had to shut, Terry was already thinking ahead: “I said to my missus, I’ve got a plan. I think the first thing we’re going to be able to do again is use outdoor facilities.”

Having an old and disused stage outside, he got to work on having it cleaned and repainted, posting updates to the pub’s Facebook page along the way to keep customers in the loop. When pubs were granted permission for a limited number of customers outside, as Terry had predicted, Leo’s was ready.

“During the pandemic, we were the only music venue in Kent that was able to put bands on.” These were big bands, used to performing into front of 1,000s but who, due to the pandemic, hadn’t been able to play.

“They were quite happy to come here and perform on this small, outdoor stage in front of 70-80 people, just to be able to play, because there was no other option. As a result, we’ve built up a very good reputation for music. In fact, we’re rated as one of the best privately owned music venues in England, let alone in Kent. So we are quite lucky.”

Try new things
When asked what advice Terry has for other pub operators, he replies that people shouldn’t be afraid to follow their ideas, take risks and try new things, while also learning from your experiences to understand better what works and what doesn’t. 

Know your costs
Having a thorough understanding of your business’ finances is crucial to maintaining 
a successful pub, as is the case with Terry and Leo’s Red Lion.

He referenced a recent example, where he was charged £5 extra for a crate of toilet rolls. Questioning the new £17 price tag, he was told the price of everything was going up. “They might be, but it means I will never be buying a toilet roll from you ever again. Because I can get them from Bookers for £12.”

Terry’s takeaway? Don’t forget there’s no return on the money you spend on toilet rolls.

He has also tackled the recent increase in energy prices, which have created a number of new challenges for publicans. Event venues, like Leo’s, have had to make big changes to their stage equipment to remain viable. Terry has swapped the power draining spotlights, which were 500 watts each and wired into a 60-amp supply, for LED spots on a 13-amp supply. 

As one of our most loyal members, we asked Terry how the BII has helped him over his 30 years of membership, to which he replied that his BII Fellowship had saved his pub in 2005.
He explains how, when the Local Authority didn’t want a live music venue, they put pressure on him to sell. 

“But I said no. ‘It’s far too important as a live music venue for you to shut’, these were my exact words to them.”

After refusing their offer to buy the pub, his operation was regularly visited by the police, which he believes was in an attempt to catch him out. Then he was told his licence, which he’d had since 1985, was to be reduced.

Speaking to the licensing officer of the time, Terry was told the change was due to misdemeanours, which he said was ironic, when he had just been awarded a Fellowship by the BII. 

Not one to give up, Terry contacted his local newspaper, the Kent Messenger, to tell his story. And when the news broke about the Gravesend pub of over 20 years, owned by a Fellow of the BII, being pressurised to close, Terry says the problems went away, which he puts down to his being awarded the fellowship at the time.

We’re delighted, of course, that Leo’s Red Lion is still here and hosting live music, as Terry’s approach is a great example of how being adaptable, taking risks, focusing on your community, and understanding your financials can bring long-term success

Simon Brencher, FBII - The Greyfriar

Nestled in the Hampshire countryside, opposite Jane Austen’s house in Chawton near Alton, The Greyfriar is fast becoming a gastronomic destination pub. The BII’s Hana Rhodes MBII reports.

Landlord Simon Brencher FBII has had a varied career up to this point, including a stint with the circus, while working his way up through the bars and restaurants of Manchester and London. Cutting his teeth as General Manager for Gordon Ramsey Holdings, and with London’s first Indian Michelin Star restaurant Benares, Simon has successfully brought his high standards and eye for detail to The Greyfriar.

The backbone of this success is Simon’s aptitude for finding top staff, using his contacts to attract young talent to his kitchen and front-of-house teams.

“My background is in London, so when I first came to Alton, it became all about finding chefs who would meet the standard. Tom Hinsley, my current Head Chef, started out as Sous Chef at Jason Atherton’s City Social. He’s from Hayling Island originally, so he has returned to his roots by coming back to Hampshire.”

Supporting Tom is 17-year-old Sous Chef, Lilly Vaughan. Lilly joined The Greyfriar as a KP aged 14 and, with encouragement, is now undertaking an apprenticeship.

“I’m very proud. She’s smashing it. A stunning chef, really. She’s going to be so successful. Under the last Head Chef she moved up from KP to start doing a bit of prep, the starters and before you know it, she’s running the kitchen on her own with a 30-year-old chef working under her.”

Simon places great importance on instilling the ethos of motivation, teamwork and development into the team.

“As an owner, you’ve got to make sure that it’s worth their while to do it. And it’s not all about money. They have to be able to see why we’re doing it, I never just say ‘we’re doing this’ – it’s about them understanding the bigger picture.”

Tailoring the high end, luxury London experience to the expectations of a country pub in Hampshire has been considered too.

“Funnily enough, I’ve had to deaden my eye for detail a little, because people are coming here for a more relaxed atmosphere. We know this, so while we train to a very high level, we can bring it back a bit.”

Simon gives his chefs autonomy over the menu, asking only that they use local suppliers, where possible, choose seasonal ingredients and aim for 70% GP.

“I’m happy with 65-68% – that’s the reality. The hard bit is alcohol, as I’m tied to Fuller’s, therefore I’m never going to get more than 55%-58%. It used to be 60/40 split on beer to food, it’s now 55 food/45 beer.

“My turnover has increased though, on average by 75% although some weeks I’m doubling the turnover from when I started five years ago. I’ve got a tracker of where we are in a spreadsheet, so day-by-day, year-on-year, I know where we are,” he says.

Each month Simon aims to bring his customers back for something new, an unmissable experience that will keep them returning.

Known for its experimental food evenings, The Greyfriar holds Guest Chef nights and new inter-pub food battles. Guest Chefs such as Jane Devonshire, Jitin Joshi and Saurav Nath have hosted special themed evenings, which are always a sell-out.

Simon explains, that these experimental food evenings have been designed to be great value for money, and a way for The Greyfriar’s patrons to vote on the new dishes the chefs are trialling. It gives control back to the customers, he says, and creates loyalty.

Inspired by popular TV show The Great British Menu, Simon and his team also invited other local pubs and their chefs to take part in a six-course challenge. Each chef must create a dish with a hero ingredient, which is chosen by a randomizer app. The scoring is decided by the customers. These inclusive and partnered evenings have been a roaring success, with the competitions taking place over two halves in each pub’s kitchen, bringing new and engaged clientele to each pub’s door.

Another unique angle is Simon’s Spanish dishes, a nod to his wife Norma and her Galician family. They source Iberica Pork Presa for their mains, and their local butcher provides a British take on Galician Beef, which is produced using older dairy cows.

“The quality is coming through as the same, so locally we can achieve it without the airmiles. The beef tastes how it used to taste 50 years ago, when I was young. It has such a rich flavour, and it’s red rather than pink.”

Running The Greyfriar isn’t without its challenges, and for Simon, like everyone in the trade currently, rising energy prices loom large.

Simon switched to a new energy provider, SSE, and has seen a three-fold increase in his monthly bill from £375. However, he had faced a hike of astonishing proportions – £4,750 a month, before finding the SSE deal.

Action to cut electricity usage has seen investment in newer, more economic fridges and LED lighting, and Simon hopes to find new ways to insulate and protect the old pub this winter, while being mindful it’s in a conservation area.
Plans for the future include a refurb of the courtyard garden to transform a small space into a cosy feature, complete with planters and booth seating.

The pub is currently so busy that extending seating would help increase dining covers, as well as the wet trade. Simon says he doesn’t have a quiet day of the week, as they’ve managed to keep hold of their regular drinkers, who now bring in their families.

When thinking about creating a sustainable business for the future, Simon’s advice is simple.

“I refuse to close, other than for half a day at Christmas. Otherwise, we’re open. We keep our lights on all the time because I want to show that we are open. If you’re not open, you can’t make money. If you’re closed because you’re empty, you never have the opportunity to be full.”

He adds: “Sunday used to be quiet, one man and his dog, two dogs if we were lucky. Slowly but surely, we did things to build trade; we started a quiz and very gradually, we’ve become busier. We’re now at the point where you have to book a table for our quiz every week. It costs me £20 to do, as I’ll read it myself, but it’s much more lucrative than an empty bar.”


Diversification ideas for quieter times:

•  Quiz nights

•  Parent and baby mornings

•  Club meet-ups (day or evening)

•  Open mic night

•  Experimental food evenings

•  Outdoor pizza oven/braai

•  Visiting food van

•  Board games night

•  Bring your own vinyl night

Andy Burdon, MBII - Powder Monkey Brewing


In its first year of trading, Powder Monkey Brewing has exploded onto the local hospitality and leisure scene. Its historic and unique location offers an equally distinctive proposition to the ever-growing number of customers, while its beers are winning awards. CEO Andy Burdon FBII talks to BII News’ Editor Kate Oppenheim CBII about its success and future plans.
Being forced to temporarily close due to the discovery of World War II bombs comes with the territory for Andy Burdon FBII, as the boss of Powder Monkey Brewing, housed on the Navy’s historic Priddy’s Yard site in Gosport, Hampshire. 

Powder Monkey, the bygone name for someone who was employed on naval warships to carry the gunpowder from the magazine to the guns, is a clever moniker for a business located in premises that date back to 1878, and were used as stores for gunpower and shells up until the end of the Second World War. 

For Andy, his team and the group of investors and shareholders behind the brand, the creation of Powder Monkey has been a labour of love: from first discovering the site in 2019 and negotiating the lease in 2020, 
to beginning brewing and opening their bar in July 2021, with the first full month of trading happening in August 2021.

One year on, Andy is pleased to say: “It has been a great success story. We’ve transformed what was a derelict building and repurposed it into something that people want to come and visit. The building blows people away!”

Powder Monkey’s brewhouse is a 25hl, four vessel, steam-powered brewery, with 120hl of fermentation and beer storage facilities, along with its own keg and canning line. In August this year, it was flat out, says Andy, producing the equivalent of 4,500 cans per brew. In its first year, it has gone from a starting base of zero, to brewing three times a week. 

“We’re still relatively small, in brewing terms, but unusually for something our size, we are quite sophisticated, because we do our own canning and kegging on site,” says Andy, adding that brewery revenue doubled in Q2 this year over Q1.

Powder Monkey’s growth is fuelled by Andy and the team’s desire to take every opportunity to achieve organic, long-term growth, with a large focus on building the brand. It is involved with several organisations, including Hampshire Fare, which champions local produce, and BBQ Magazine, which promotes its two beers suited to flame-cooked food. 

“We’re doing some great things, such as supplying festivals and events, plus we sell our beers to local businesses, as well as through our bar, The Powder Monkey.”

The brewery is SIBA FSQ certified and is producing award-winning beer. Its BBQ Rye IPA won the silver prize in SIBA’s Regional Award 2021, while it achieved gold for its Explosion IPA. In September, the brewery launched the official beer for the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s famous warship, which sunk off Portsmouth in 1545 and is on display at the Historic Portsmouth Dockyard Museum, along with thousands of artefacts from the ship and its crew.

“Our Head Brewer, Mark Hamblin, spent a lot of time visiting the Mary Rose exhibition to research and understand what life was like on board, as he wanted to produce a beer that would be a modern interpretation of the smells and tastes, such as the spices, that they would have had on board at the time.” 

Mary Rose beer is a 4.6% ABV wheat-based keg and can beer, which has a herby, cracked pepper and smooth bready clove flavour. Available on draught and in can, it’s already being sold alongside other Powder Monkey beers in the shops and restaurants in the dockyard, with Andy in negotiations to make it more widely available in handpicked premises around the Portsmouth area. 

Back on the water-front at Gosport, The Powder Monkey bar offers customers the choice of indoor and outdoor areas, seating over 175 covers, and is open from midday to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and noon to 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The food offer, currently high quality imported German hotdogs and lamb koftas, which Andy describes as “soakage food”, is being evolved, by working with local and artisan suppliers. A new menu was launched for this summer. 

“We want to really open up our offer. We’re constantly on the look out for new opportunities and where we can add to our revenue stream – and food is part of that. We are also doing more events and live music, alongside our popular Sunday night bingo,” he says, explaining that they are very community-focussed and appeal to a broad customer base, from families to OAPs. With their naval connections, they also offer a veterans’ discount for members of the forces. 

“The Powder Monkey is not only a craft beer bar that attracts true beer lovers, but a community hub, somewhere everyone can relax, feel comfortable and enjoy great food, beer and cider in a spectacular building with great views of the sea.

“Our customers love us because we offer something different. The bar is right on the water and we sell our beer, plus ciders from Devon’s Sandford Orchards, while our spirits are crafted by local suppliers. We focus on selling a combination of local and non-mainstream products.”

Once a month, they host a local producers’ market at the brewery, with stalls selling quality, local produce from artisan bread to biltong and coffee. 

“We like to collaborate with local and other businesses and, as a result, we get a lot of referrals. We aim to build long-term relationships and we are always having conversations with people about how we can connect with new pubs, shops and small chains to stock our beer, as well as brewing beers as gifts for our corporate client base.

“Everything we do, we do in a customer committed and friendly way,” says Andy, adding that its regular brewery tours attract lots of new guests, who get to sample the beers at the brewery bar, which is housed inside the brewery. 

Andy also works closely with Portsmouth City Council and Gosport Borough Council, as well as spending lots of time networking with local organisations, including the university, which is developing an augmented reality project. In the near future, this will take visitors back in time to see the gunpowder store as it looked in Victorian times.  

As for the bombs that caused the recent closure of the bar, there were at least five unexploded Second World War shells accidentally uncovered by a JCB-driver, who was working on a nearby building. All were successfully defused, but it’s more proof, if any was needed, that Powder Monkey packs a powerful punch with its explosive brand and unique customer proposition.
Siba Awards
Powder Monkey Brewing Co achieved two wins at the SIBA Regional Bottle & Can awards 2021, with a silver for its BBQ Rye IPA, in the speciality medium to dark beers category, and a gold medal for its Explosion IPA, in the IPA category. 

Rich Jones, MBII - The Lord Nelson

After eight years in The Lord Nelson (The Nellie, to those in the know), Richard Jones MBII signed a new 10-year lease with Fuller's and has embarked on a new journey with his new team, a recently refurbished and an altogether brighter view of the future. The BII's Hana Rhodes reports:

Richard Jones MBII (Rich) has worked his way up from cutting his teeth as a barman with Young’s to running his much beloved Brentford local, The Lord Nelson, in SW London.

With the security of a 10-year lease, Rich and his wife Elise have been busy redesigning and refitting the pub. “We really like the longer-term agreement. My wife is a designer and it means we can put our own stamp on it. We wouldn’t have committed this spend on a shorter lease, but now we have the security, we feel we can do the things we want to here to build for the future.”

The Lord Nelson’s first refit, when the couple originally took over, was the launch pad for Elise’s successful design business, with this most recent and more comprehensive refurbishment really giving them the freedom to transform the place.

Refurbed garden
When Covid-19 closed the doors of pubs and all that came with it, Rich found himself in a really fortunate position. Fuller’s had renewed their lease and put an immediate halt on the rent, and with the Government’s furlough scheme, he knew that the staff would be looked after. This gave him the freedom to explore all the financial options and to invest in the fabric of the pub building and the garden.

“With shorter leases and tenancies, people don’t want to spend the big money, understandably. The pub has been added to over the years but much of it has been bodged together really… but having had the time to do the garden over lockdown and the interior this year has meant we have been able to do the whole thing properly.”

Removing an old play area, levelling the ground and making a feature of a large eucalyptus tree by wrapping it in lights and a custom-made bench seat, the garden makeover has transformed it into a comfortable and inviting dining and drinking space. A custom-made tepee style tent also season proofed the space, creating an area that was warm and dry all year round – crucial to increasing covers post-pandemic.

Social media marketing
Rich attributes the success of reopening to his teasing the new garden makeover on the pub’s social media platforms.

“I think I’m relatively good with social media, but sometimes it does feel like you’re shouting into a bit of a black hole. You don’t always get the engagement, but I realised that when we reopened, people came just to see the garden after reading about it on social media. They might not have been commenting or liking the post, but they had seen it and word spread. “That has given me more confidence, because I had started to wonder if I should be spending my time doing something else!”

Tech, service and staffing 
With staff retention and recruitment being a high priority for most pubs, Rich’s approach to his team has helped enormously and has put the business in a good position.

“I really care about my staff and I think, and hope, they’d say the same about us. We get a lot of uni students who leave to go home, but they always stay in touch and whenever they come back, they always say that it has been their favourite place to work,” says Rich, adding: “I’ve had some bad experiences and I’ve seen staff treated harshly. In some pubs, it’s all about hitting the figures to achieve x salary.

But you end up doing 70 hours a week.

“I’ve never wanted to do that to my staff. We try to work as a unit – we make the decisions together before I have final say.”

With outdoor and table service bookings being the order of the day, when The Lord Nelson reopened after the Omicron lockdown in April 2021, Rich said he had never had a better selection of staff to choose from.

“We ended up taking on about 14 great quality people and we now have a really good team. We were lucky there. A lot of things have fallen in our favour really!”

He has also been fortunate with his energy bills, having managed to fix the contract just before the price increases hit. “We were so lucky there, but we have also installed LED light bulbs, a new linked lighting system, where it’s easy to turn everything off at once, new fridges and energy-efficient equipment and so on.

“The kitchen hasn’t been included in this refurb, but we did get a lot of new equipment when we reopened after the first lockdown, so the whole pub has a new lease of life.”

With the kitchen equipment being updated in 2020 and the garden re-landscaped, a host of new opportunities have opened up for Rich and the team. From making the most of the increased number of table covers, to the all-weather outdoor space.

“We were always quite good on food, but the biggest change has to do with customer type – we’re probably 40-50% women now, whereas before the pub was quite male dominated. Our sales mix has changed too. We now serve a lot more cocktails, wine and food, but that’s not to say that women don’t drink beer, of course. It’s as much to do with our creating a really pleasant place to go.”

Rich adds that the move away from beer has been beneficial. “Being tied, beer is where we get our lowest margins. Any time we can change our sales mix to include other products is great for us.”

For Rich, everything has been about exploiting the opportunities and maximising the revamp.

“With the refurb, we’ve spent extra in order to build for the future, for instance, by replacing all the electrics and the bar. We pulled out the old back bar, which was really impractical, and it’s all new now with an actual cocktail station and an ice well.”

Plans are now in place to take advantage of the predicted rum boom, with Rich introducing a house cocktail, Nelson’s Blood, which he explains is a nod to the pub’s namesake and the legendary story of Nelson’s body being preserved at sea in a barrel of rum.

As is so often the case, the passion and energy from Rich and the team is leading the Nellie towards a brighter future, as well as creating a thriving place for locals and visitors alike to eat, drink and socialise. The investment in people and the fabric of the building will ensure The Lord Nelson is a fantastic community venue for years to come.

The Lord Nelson

Emma Shepherd, MBII - The Blue Ball Inn

Emma Shepherd MBII is successfully driving forward her wet-led pub business, The Blue Ball Inn in Worrall, near Sheffield. The BII’s Peter Baskett MBII discovers she has some simple but highly effective ideals to keep the pub at the heart of the community – and save money on bills too.

The desire to return to her community was what inspired Emma Shepherd MBII to take over the Blue Ball Inn in Worrall. Having lived in the village since her daughter was born 23 years ago, Emma, along with her husband Carl (who was also born in Worrall), decided it was time to bring their focus and lives back to village life.

“I got made redundant in April 2019 and this pub was looking for a new landlord/landlady. I’d always fancied doing it!

“I’d worked in pubs and hotels when I was much younger and when I was a student, and I just really liked the idea of being back in the heart of the community. My previous job had taken me all over the country and I was rarely at home,” explains Emma, who sealed the deal to take over the Blue Ball just two months later on June 11, 2019.

Working jointly with Admiral Taverns, the pub was fully refurbished and turned into a venue designed to give a warm welcome to every sort of person. “We’ve invested a lot to make it the kind of community pub that serves everybody,” says Emma.

Making the Blue Ball a welcoming place for all has been the driving force behind a lot of the decisions.

For instance, the primarily wet-led business operates at an 80/20 wet/dry split and purposely avoids serving a lot of food, as they don’t believe it is what their customers are looking for.

“We thought that there were enough gastropubs and restaurants in the local area, so we made a conscious decision not to offer food,” says Emma, adding: “We do reserve spaces for special occasions, but we try to avoid bookings, so that when the locals come in, they’ve always got their spot.

Community collaboration
Being an inclusive space for everyone, and putting people first is what keeps customers coming back to the Blue Ball. This includes working together with, rather than competing against other local pubs to ensure everyone is supported and thriving.

“There are a few pubs locally around the four villages and we have a chat group. We share best practice and we ask each other for help. We’re quite aware that working together is better than working against each other.”

At the Blue Ball, community comes first and Emma describes how she works alongside local businesses for their mutual benefit. “Because we’re a small village, we have a lovely post office, a hairdresser and we have two pubs. That’s it. The nearest supermarket is in the next village, but it’s quite a walk away.”

To help make fresh produce more accessible to villagers, Emma lets a local supplier set up a fresh fruit and vegetable stand in the pub car park on some mornings. “He just rocks up at 7am, while we’re sleeping, and the villagers come and get their good quality, fresh food and veg.”

To diversify from the usual pub offering, the Blue Ball has started doing breakfast mornings, which Emma says have been a huge hit. “We’re only a little pub but we did 100 sausages and five dozen eggs last Saturday.”

By hosting the fresh produce stalls and breakfast mornings at her pub, Emma consistently drives traffic to her venue during quiet times. The Blue Ball’s breakfast mornings are in collaboration with a local business, the Little Sausage Shop, where they have created the perfect Blue Ball sausage especially for the pub. “We wanted something that was a little bit coarser in texture and that could be cooked quickly.

“People who didn’t know about the Little Sausage Shop now know about it, and he helps promote our business as well, by telling everybody about us on a Saturday morning – it’s a mutual benefit,” says Emma.

Beyond working with local businesses, Emma and the Blue Ball do what they can to support community efforts.

“I just feel it’s important as a village pub that we are at the heart of the community and we do as much as we can to support it.”

Energy saving
Customers aren’t the only ones who are looking to save money, with the rising cost of utilities. Licensees are under ever increasing pressure to reduce costs at every opportunity.

For Emma, this meant introducing ‘atmospheric’ lighting in the evenings by switching things off.

To find out how best to reduce the energy expenditure of the pub, Emma approached a local electrician for advice. “We wanted to know what we could do better. His advice was to reduce the amount of time anything with a motor is on – devices that heat up when they’re on.

“Keeping those off will ultimately save you money. It might not be a lot for one piece of equipment, but if you do it with a few bits of equipment, then it all adds up.”

While her cellar technician advised against turning the cellar cooler off, to avoid harming the beer quality, they did suggest that the ice banks could get switched off overnight, because the ice would remain frozen until the morning.

“We even have our bottle fridges on timers, so they switch off overnight.

We also switch off our counter fridges, which store our pork pies and sausage rolls for sale. We wrap up the food and put it in the kitchen fridge overnight.”

Emma reveals that so far, these simple but effective measures have saved the Blue Ball £300 on their electricity bill in the first month.

When it comes to marketing their pub, the Blue Ball Inn relies on Facebook and word of-mouth for promotion, opting not to use a website. Asking Emma about this decision, she said that she wanted to be able to engage her customers in a two-way conversation, which wouldn’t be possible through a traditional website.

By sticking to social media as the primary way of communicating with their customers, the Blue Ball can maintain the community feel that the pub is well loved for.

“I think because we’re a community pub and we’re all about engagement, people can engage better on social media, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram,” says Emma. “If they’re looking at things on Facebook or Instagram, it’s an opportunity for people to ask questions or become engaged.”

The Blue Ball Inn is a fantastic example of what it means to truly be at the heart of a community, putting people above all else and working together with the industry to make a positive difference. 

The Blue Ball Inn, Worrall

Gail and Steve Carroll, MBII - TheCarbeile Inn

Gail and Steve, an ex-Navy aircraft handler of 22 years, have returned to what their son Sean calls their spiritual home. The BII's Hana Rhodes reports:

Having run pubs in Somerset and Wiltshire before moving to be nearer to the family, returning to their old pub wasn’t quite what the Carroll’s expected – but it has supplied them with a new challenge, which they are enthusiastically tackling. “We’ve always had an affinity with it.”


The Carbeile Inn first became home to Steve and Gail in 1997, when they took it on as their second pub with the St Austell Brewery. Gail explains:
“Steve was still in the Royal Navy when we took it on. It was a massive challenge for us, as we’d only had a small village pub before that, but we took the plunge and ended up staying here for 13 years.”


Over those 13 years, they successfully worked through the challenges of the time, including the aftermath of the 2008 recession and the smoking ban, both of which were difficult for the hospitality industry.
A refurbishment in the late 90s took them from strength-to-strength over the next decade. Then, in 2012, Gail, Steve and their two children moved to Taunton to manage an Enterprise Inn’s venue, to be nearer to Steve’s family.
“We ended up doing a little bit of a circuit around the South West: we had two or three pubs in Somerset and then we finished off with a pub in Wiltshire,” explains Gail.

Returning to The Carbeile Inn 
Returning to Torpoint and taking on The Carbeile hadn’t been part of any plan, in fact, Gail says, they had been ready to hang up their publican’s hats.
“We were returning to Plymouth to be closer to family, as we’d had a new granddaughter… when we heard that The Carbeile was coming up again! Of course, it piqued our interest to come and have a little look.”
Meeting with St Austell BDM Chris Faulkner, they got talking about refurbishing the pub and giving it a new lease of life. “There’s only a few pubs here, which are mainly drinking pubs, so there’s no real family dynamic within the town.”
But as Covid hit, they ended up only being back at The Carbeile Inn a week before reopening – alongside everyone else on July 4, 2020. As there was no time for a refurb before reopening, it was decided they wait a year to see how the post-pandemic recovery went.
“We really were very lucky with the support from the brewery and also a lot of local people were very happy to see that we were back. We had a good start as far as getting the business of its knees – and we were able to let our personalities shine.”

Refurb over lockdown
With help from the Government schemes, such as Eat Out To Help Out, and by working with their young team to improve morale and provide training, leading from the front, Steve and Gail began to bring The Carbeile back to life.
“Chris saw that we could take this business further, so St Austell’s put us forward for a refurbishment. As we went into another lockdown, just before New Year’s Eve, we had it all in place, so this time, lockdown did us a favour. We managed to finish the refurb over the lockdown period and when we reopened, on May 17, 2021, we had a fully refurbished pub,” says Gail proudly.


The work at the pub also allowed them to create more usable space.
“We moved the bar to open the space into more of a lounge – we created about 35-40 additional covers and it has given us a restaurant area.
“Our son Sean wanted to create a cocktail area on the bar, so he helped hone the plans. It ended up being a very clean, open looking modern bar.”
It’s testament to their management style that The Carbeile has flourished post-pandemic – with the couple happy to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
“If the pots need doing because the kitchen is short staffed, then Steve puts on the Marigolds. If there’s a spillage or the toilets need doing, these aren’t things we pass on to others to do. The staff respect us for it and we are able to help them see the potential in the pub – they just needed somebody to lead them in the right direction.”
Staff morale has never been higher and now Steve and Gail are seeing an increase in staff retention too, thanks to their investment in their staff, including employing kitchen staff on apprenticeship schemes.
Passing Out Parades
Another huge part of the identity of the pub has come from Steve’s Naval background. He explains how their proximity to a Naval training base and the Covid restrictions resulted in a serendipitous Passing Out opportunity. 
“We’re only about ¾ of a mile from HMS Rally, which is a new recruit training site. Throughout the Covid restrictions, the base wouldn’t allow any outsiders inside to watch the Passing Out Parades.
“When someone came in for a drink, instead of sitting in their car to watch on their phone their son’s passing out parade, Sean – our IT guru – mentioned he could show it on our screen. It was probably the best thing we have ever done, because now, every week, we show it on the screen and people come in to watch it and have a coffee. We also record it for those who can’t come in person. Then at 4pm, the new recruits pop in for a drink and we show it again. So many people come to see their kids’ Passing Out and now they pop in for a pint too!”


Gail and Steve’s story of returning to Torpoint is one of homecoming, family and renewed vision for the future. It is clear that it’s the ability to grow and adapt which aids their success, and their vision for an updated and relevant Carbeile Inn is just what the town needs, with a sprinkling of personality and authenticity on top. 

The Carbeile Inn

Emma & Terry Cole, MBII - The Royal Oak

Charity begins at home, which for Emma and Terry Cole MBII is their pub, The Royal Oak in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton.

Having taken over the pub from Emma’s parents, Susan and Keith, five years ago, Terry left his role in distribution to join the day-to-day running of The Royal Oak. Established as a family business for 15 years, Emma and Terry (winners of the BII Heart of the Community Award, Marston’s Pub of the Year, and Licensee of the Year Award 2021 Semi-Finalists) have kept the community spirit alive with their welcoming atmosphere and unwavering support for numerous local charities. “Our main charities are the Midland Freewheelers and Little Rascals, but a lot of customers will ask us, ‘can we raise money for this?’. We always try to accommodate everyone and have raised 10s of thousands of pounds,“ says Terry.
Arranging charity days at least once a month, the Coles regularly join forces as a family to think up new and clever ways to bring people into the pub. Their latest fundraiser saw Emma running what’s known as the Wolves10k on March 27th and Terry will be taking part in a 22-mile trek along the beaches of Normandy on June 6, D-Day. Speaking to BII News in February, Terry explained: “After Emma’s run in March, we are planning a music afternoon to get people to congregate at the pub afterwards. We’re aiming to raise £1,000, which would keep the Freewheelers’ fleet running for at least a month or two.”


No pressure on Emma, then, who only eight months ago couldn’t have run for more than one minute. But it was a conversation with a customer that gave her the inspiration and motivation to run for the charity. “I’m completely addicted to running now. I’ve put up my JustGiving page and the donations have been rolling in.” Helped, no doubt, by the local Express & Star newspaper running an article about their charity challenges. Christmas saw Emma and Terry organising shoeboxes to be filled with presents for the local homeless community, including gloves, hats, scarves, toothbrushes, sweets, chocolate and coffee. Terry says: “Everyone got the same items and Emma and I spent many a Monday on our quiet days in the pub, filling the boxes, wrapping them and getting them ready to go. We sent out 120 parcels with the help of locals, donating through our collection box.”

There’s a real community feel about this traditional, wet-led pub, where events, like those for charity, successfully bring everyone together, with regulars checking in to see how Emma’s race training is going, but also to see how they can get involved. In lockdown, Terry had an idea to walk from The Royal Oak in Carlisle, to The Royal Oak in Truro. This journey of 425 miles came to a fitting end in the car park of The Royal Oak, Wolverhampton, keeping to the lockdown travel rules at the time. “It was everyone’s chance to get some exercise in and socialise while remaining socially distanced. We raised £1,500 – the pub wasn’t even open, yet people would still pop by to donate some money.”

While fundraising for charity is at the heart of what makes Terry and Emma tick, they still need to ensure that the bills are paid and pints keep being pulled. By keeping set-up costs low, the couple find success with their events, achieving takings of between £1,000-£1,500 each time. Entering the BII’s Licensee of the Year Award in 2021, and reaching the semi-finals, the couple say the experience benefitted them, not least thanks to the comments of the head judges, trade experts, Sue Allen CBII and Paul Pavli CBII. They advised the couple to take more time for themselves and to get out of the business to sample what the competition was up to, in order to gain a broader customer perspective. “The problem we have is, that we are so tied to the pub; we’re passionate about it and want to be here overseeing everything to make sure we’re doing it right. This means that we sometimes neglect to go out and experience new things,” admits Terry.

Despite their Christmas trading period being affected by the couple catching Covid, they say they remain in a financially stable position, thanks in part to grants from their local council – most recently the Omicron Hospitality & Leisure Grant. They also benefit from the pub’s proximity to the Molineux stadium, which brings in 300 to 500 people on match days. Increasing the footprint of the pub has also helped to build turnover. A marquee and outdoor bar has helped establish the outside space, providing a bonus for spring and summer.

“It has been a real benefit to us because word has spread about our cover and heaters. No one wants to be standing outside on match days, so everyone’s coming to us and we’re getting busier and busier,” says Terry. Investing money in the bar to ensure it would work outside, long after restrictions were lifted, was key to boosting customer confidence more than anything.

Emma proudly adds: “Our outside bar now matches our inside bar, in terms of the offer. Customers now have the full choice of beers. It started small, with only two hand pours, but we’ve made it bigger and put a roof on it. It has been a long process, but essentially we had to bring the piping up from the cellar.“

Having spoken to their Area Manager, Marston’s gave the project the go-ahead and supported them by helping to make the necessary cellar changes. Training the staff “the Oak Way” has also helped create success, which Terry says has been all down to Emma finding the best people to come and work for them. Emma explains: “The Oak Way is to be happy, to care about your customers and have quick service. It’s about making people feel welcome when they walk through the door.“ With plans for summer music festivals and their version of the Great British Bake Off in the pipeline, the Coles are looking forward to a good summer and are feeling confident for the future.

Terry says: “We serve good beer and keep it to a really high standard. That’s what our customers want. They like our consistency. We serve an award-winning mild, The Banks’s Mild, and that’s going well – it’s not a fashionable drink, but we’re doing three 72s per week. It always does well.“ Another bestseller is Marstons’ Sunbeam, which Terry describes as “an absolutely amazing drink”.

He says: “You can see people’s faces change when they taste beer this good. They’re happy to pay our prices because we keep a clean, well-maintained cellar and serve great tasting and well-presented beers.” Terry and Emma have community at the heart of everything they do, whether that’s boosting local charities through fundraising, getting stuck in with creating care packages for the local homeless community or welcoming new and established customers. “The Oak Way” is clearly a sturdy and well-built road to success for this pair.


Darren & Charlotte Nash, MBII - The Red Lion

Having moved into the business on the day the country was first thrust into lockdown, Darren and Charlotte Nash, MBII quickly set about transforming The Red Lion, a St Austell tenancy in Cricklade, Wiltshire – a historic coaching inn, the pub boasts five letting rooms, regular beer festivals and even has its own on-site brewery, The Hop Kettle. 

Darren has spent his whole life in-and-around pubs, with many happy memories of learning the trade from his licensee grandparents. So, when he and Charlotte got together (11 years ago), the couple decided to have a go at running their own. “We did four years in a little pub in Alton in Staffordshire, where we’re both from, and then we did a little ‘messing around’ in outside catering and wedding functions.”

Always having their sights set on a venue in Cornwall, the couple got in touch with Chris Faulkner MBII, Business Development Manager (BDM) at St Austell Brewery. He had a pub in mind for them, The Red Lion in Cricklade, which was further north than they had hoped for, as it’s nearer to Swindon than their desired Cirencester, but they decided to give it a go. “We had this ideal scenario in our heads, which was to move down there and open up as soon as we’d moved our stuff in. But as soon as we had completed the handover, the news on the TV announced we were going into full lockdown.“

Turning this major blow into something positive, the husband and wife team used this period to refurbish the venue (including its letting rooms). “After making the flat our own, we set to work on the pub. Like a typical 16th century venue, it was in need of a bit of TLC. We installed new carpets throughout, new flooring and decorations, installed pizza ovens in the kitchen and then I built an outside bar in anticipation of reopening. We did 90% of the work ourselves, apart from the floor and some help with the bar,” says Darren.

With a beer garden that boasts 200 covers outside, Darren also created an all-weather outside structure and is now building an ice cream stall to attract passers by. “The ice cream parlour is my next mini project. It will be a permanent space with a concrete base and sort of shed-like structure. I’m going to install a hatch on the front with a glass fronted freezer, so customers can walk up and choose ice creams through the glass. We’ve made connections with a lovely local ice cream company in Swindon called Rays.”

Having taken over £1,200 on the May bank holiday weekend last year in ice cream sales alone, it’s clear to see why this is the latest project in Darren’s repertoire. “There’s plenty of space and lots of people walking in the area, so it will do well to attract families and young children,” he says proudly. With Charlotte concentrating on front-of-house, Darren plays to his strengths in the kitchen and the cellar. His latest menu successes were his “fakeaways”, which involved a healthy twist on Chinese, Greek, Deep South and Jamaican street food.

“They all sold out, so I did a celebration of my takeaways for New Year’s Eve, amalgamating them and taking the best bits. It was £35 per head for a worldwide tapas evening.“ Although it was time consuming work, Darren worked to a GP of 75%, which was achieved through preparing everything himself, leaving his chefs to carry on doing what they needed to do – using the best value produce to create wholesome street food flavours. When it comes to changing menus, Darren recognises that the business’ strengths lie in its ability to keep changing. 

“I’ve got the attention span of a five year-old, so my menu is always changing,” he explains. “We’ve got a heavy wet trade, a huge beer garden and the best food, but I think fine dining is not where we’re headed in future. It’s successful in the winter, but for the summer, it’s sandwiches in the day and burgers, pizzas and steaks all night. That’s where the money is.” Speaking to Darren and Charlotte in February, still in the midst of ‘pie weather’, as Darren calls it, the menu featured classic comfort foods. “I’ve got a beautiful belly of pork on with dauphinoise, pepper sauce and braised red cabbage. I also do a different pie each week, steak, ale and mushroom, at the minute. This weekend, it’ll be a venison bourguignon pie, which sells for £16.”

Recognising where his best profits are, Darren explains: “I know full well if I’ve got a fillet steak on the menu, the GP is only going to be 52%, but with a pie, I’m potentially going to be using Sunday Roast meat leftovers and I know it’s going to be hitting 80% GP. “It’s the same with the bar, I couldn’t make 60% GP on Champagne, but I can make 72% on a Prosecco.” Although tied tenants with St Austell, Darren is happy with their excellent choice of beer, thanks to their Hop Kettle brewery. “I’m able to buy four products, as part of our agreement, so we’ve got 10 cask lines, 10 keg lines, plus my outside bar. My best sellers are a Pale Ale, a Best Bitter, Element or North Wall. I run two guest ales every week and then normally we have two or three St Austell products and Bath Ales,” he says.

The Hop Kettle is an asset that helps to market the pub. It came about after Tom Gee, founder of Hop Kettle, who originally owned the pub sold it off to concentrate on opening new microbreweries in Swindon and Cirencester. “Customers come here just to sample the Hop Kettle beers, it’s a really unique selling point.” Its popularity led Darren to set-up yearly beer and musical festivals. “This year is going to be bigger and better. I’ll have 40 real ales, 8 or 10 bag-in-box ciders, 10 keg products.”

Tickets cost £10, which buys visitors a wristband, a festival glass, a programme and your first drink free. “The £10 covers my costs plus an extra three quid. We had 800 to 900 people over the weekend. We’ve jiggled the bands around a bit and hopefully they’ll bring their following.“ Darren and Charlotte have a lot to look forward to, come the warmer months. With beer festivals, ice cream offerings and recognising the seasonal tastes of customers, the summer sun will shed light on the hard work they put in all year round to boost the business.

Chris Simon, MBII - The White Hart Hotel

A ‘Local pub with character’, The White Hart Hotel in the Market Town of Modbury (between the Devon coast and Dartmoor National Park) has become a cooking playground for St Austell tenant, Chris Simon, MBII. 

After a career as a chef on super yachts, cooking up luxurious fare for the uber wealthy, Chris wanted to start his own business. “I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be based, but my father lives up the road from The White Hart and when I saw it was vacant, I knew it was a big space and it felt like it would be a good opportunity,” he explains, adding that “it’s a playground for me to cook whatever I want”.
While Chris’ focus is very much on cooking, out of necessity he has been forced to venture out of the kitchen to work on the bedrooms, learning new skills along the way – as a plumber, electrician, tiler and interior decorator. “We cleaned up everything we could. We kept all the old tables, cleaning and polishing them to make the best of what we had,” he says. “We even fitted a brand new kitchen, but just two months in, we were hit by lockdown.”

As they come out the other side of the pandemic, Chris spoke to BII News in February, just as he was preparing to reopen in time for Valentine’s Day, after a quiet December and January. “We decided to limit opening hours and focus on improving the pub, whilst it was quiet. We’re putting new bathrooms into the upstairs bedrooms,” he says. With a heavy focus on the food, it comes as no surprise that The White Hart’s offer is 60% in favour of food, 20% rooms and 20% drinks.

And Chris’ Valentine’s Day menu showed that when it comes to the food, nothing is too much, with his ‘I've got my HART set on you’ starters, ‘My HART skips a beat’ main courses and ‘You’re my sweetHART’ desserts. At £40 per person, or £45 for the beef fillet, Chris consistently works to a GP of 70%, with guests usually spending between £50-60 per person – but with bills up to £300 for a special occasion, should guests choose Champagne to go with their lobster. “People who come to us tend to order starter, main, dessert and a bottle of wine but, of course, there are also customers who come in for fish and chips and a coffee. It varies, and we’re glad to be able to cater for a wide variety,” he explains.

As a destination pub, customers are happy to travel from Plymouth Totnes to celebrate an anniversary or birthday at The White Hart. “It feels great because we know we’re worth travelling for. Because we’re in a town that already has two other oldie local’s pubs, there’s no point in treading on their toes. The pub across the road has been doing pie and chips for the last 20 years and people love it. There's no point in me trying to compete.
“By doing the food that we do and offering the level of service we have, we’ve carved out our point-of-difference,” he says. Being careful to ensure the pub fits into its local surroundings, Chris has turned to a French farmhouse style inside. He adds: “There would be no point in us painting it bright, elaborate colours and having strobe lights everywhere. We try to complement the surrounding businesses, while still adding value to the town.”

Becoming a chef wasn’t always on Chris’ radar, in fact, he got his first job in a kitchen peeling potatoes and chopping onions aged 20. He was quickly recognised for his spark, and was given responsibility for looking after the desserts. This ignited a passion in him for patisserie, which was further fed when he went to the Ashburton Cookery School. “When I get a bee in my bonnet about learning how to do something, I just get on and do it as much as I can. In our kitchen, it’s just myself and my apprentice and so we do things like butchering our own meats, which is something I learned from butchers in France,” says Chris. “Doing our own butchery offers us more control with GP: it’s not just about portion sizes, but about how it looks on the plate. It also means we can use the trimmings from steaks to make pies, or cook the fatty trim into sauces. Nothing goes to waste. We basically get a free sauce or pie from doing it all ourselves.”

When creating a new menu, Chris says he looks back at his bestsellers from previous menus, noting down great flavour combinations that might have caused something to sell incredibly well. “We do begin with the classics, like fish and chips, but we make our own chips, tartare sauce and batter. With our burgers, we make the bun, the patty, the pulled pork, chutney, barbecue sauce and the potato hash that goes in the burger.”

Success is about building around the basics. He explains: “Every good pub should offer steak. I often use fillet because it’s low in fat and we can add flavour with butter, thyme, garlic and rosemary. We use the bones from the joints we butcher to make stocks and sauces too.” Chris’ love for good food becomes ever more obvious as he enthusiastically talks about how he structures his menus, starting with the meat, then adding texture with purees and seasonal vegetables. “Now We're heading into spring we’ll use things like the beautiful asparagus that’s available to us, and we'll just keep changing the dish to suit the seasons. If the produce is more abundant, it’ll be cheaper for us too.”

Achieving all this between himself and his apprentice, Chris outlines his approach to training. “My apprentice started off peeling potatoes and vacuum-packing meat and fish, to keep them in good condition, so that he learns to respect the products. Every time we make something new, he's learning and he has come on quite quickly. “I know I can trust him to make the bread rolls, sorbet and to get everything weighed out for me and the more technical dishes.”

When it comes to learning and support for his apprentice, Chris Couldn't be more engaged and excited: “The hospitality industry is used as a stepping stone far too much, so it's important to support staff who are passionate about becoming chefs and staying in our industry. We really want to preserve the hospitality industry in this country by making it better, which is all about finding great people who want to work in it.” These are sentiments the BII shares with Chris, as we work to promote how hospitality can enrich the lives of customers, community members, suppliers and those who share in our collective passion.


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