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Jackie Fairburn, MBII

The Hare & Hounds

Taking just 6 months to get from Logistics Director to well-loved licensee, Jackie Fairburn set her sights on the Hare and Hounds in Wakefield with the motto “it’s now or never” running through her head. BII’s Eleanor Kirby spoke to Jackie about transferring skills from one career to the next, the importance of subtle advertising and organising inclusive events.

Committing 23 years of her career to a beloved job in the manufacturing industry, Jackie thought to herself one day “I need to try this, I need to see if I’ll be any good at running a pub”. Wasting no time at all, she quickly found herself having a coffee with a Punch BDM (the pub is now run under Star Pubs and Bars) who advised her to take a Personal Licence course.

“I’m quite a bubbly person, I do talk a lot and I always thought it was something I should have done years ago. But then I wouldn’t have known what I do now. The job I was in before helped me so much”.

For the first four weeks after taking on the Hare and Hounds, Jackie felt she needed to observe the pub’s weekly routine before making any sizeable changes.

“I knew I needed to take stock to put together a long lasting plan. We were getting four people in at 4 o’clock on a Monday, or ten on a Sunday who would all go home for their roast after cradling a pint”.

Cottoning on quickly, she realised subtle changes that would revolutionise customer growth: “there was nothing happening for anyone else aside from the over sixties, I wanted to cater for wider age groups and started putting things in place slowly… It hasn’t been overnight!”

These changes grew from the dedication grown out of her previous career, a simple matter of executing plans with conviction, with the help of a wall calendar and her sounding board, partner, Patrick.

“I wasn’t scared of failing, I don’t worry about things not working but I know that I have to work hard to capture the feeling of the area. It’s so important to make sure younger people and families use the pub and keep it going for future generations, something I want to see continue to work here long after I’ve left”.

Generational bridges were built in the first year with the establishment of “Local Vocals”, labelled as a choir with a difference. With forty people joining in every month, friendships are made and strengthened through singing modern, feel good songs, sure to make “all of your hairs stick up on the back of your arm”.

An ABBA tribute act was next on Jackie’s list, ticketed with an automatic raffle draw with a chance to win a holiday to Greece! This was quickly followed by a carol concert, drawing over 400 people year on year; and the musical events kept on coming with a 32 piece brass band setting up every June.

“I advertise well, and I don’t just do it the week before. This January, I was advertising things happening in June and October. This year is our first ever scarecrow festival! Partnering with four charities, we’re trying to get all the local houses involved with putting up scarecrows in their gardens.”

Jackie has secured stallholders to provide light retail therapy, the New York Brass Band (who played Glastonbury last year!) and a singer specialising in classics from the forties.

“We want it to have a festival type feel but linking it with VE Day because it’s on the weekend before the new Bank Holiday. The theme is ‘All things British’ complete with retro games, afternoon teas served on crockery sourced from charity shops for added eclecticism”.

With all members of the community in mind, Jackie has hired a vintage bus to drive in a loop through the village to pick up party goers.

“I’m trying to think of everything, everyone, every age. We have a few older people so they can go round, jump on and off, look around all the scarecrows and come and see us too!”

Inspiration comes naturally to Jackie, and it seems she doesn’t stop looking for ways to make an event worthwhile for customers. A man with a drone took aerial shots of the carol concert, hot toddies and Baileys hot chocolates were consumed and Jackie has started to introduce bottomless brunches to appeal to different clientele.

“It’s two hours food and bottomless drink for £25 and it keeps customers in. If they enjoy themselves, they might come to one of our other events too, they keep you in mind and it’s a snowball effect”.

Approaching the warmer months, Jackie is eager to talk about her best investment at the Hare and Hounds, her garden, boasting an outdoor bar area with heaters and grass spanning over ¾ of an acre.

“I’m so into flowers, and it really helps with presentation. The pub is on a main road, at the top of a hill, and flower baskets are really eye catching. You’d think it’s a cosy pub, but then when you go round the back you realise the outside space is a great place whatever the weather, it was an oasis of wilderness and now we’ve invested in outdoor heaters and an al-fresco bar and it works so well together”.

Winning “Best Newcomer” with Star Pubs and Bars makes everything worthwhile to Jackie and she picked up some great tips from the other competitors, helping her realise licensees all experience the same issues at different times in their careers.

“It’s so good to listen to what other licensees have to say and pick things up from them. I love reading BII News, it’s all so relevant and it’s great to see what other people are doing in the industry”.

Jackie says it costs nothing to smile and be polite, which is funny, because that’s what you’ll be doing when you spend some time in the Hare and Hounds.

What do you do on your days off?

A lot of people that go into this industry get a bit of a shock I think, because it’s a 24/7 job. When you live here, you have to be constantly working, but I’ve always worked hard, I’m just a Gemini! I can empathise with people and give quite a lot of attention to customers, I’ve got eyes everywhere and I want to make sure they’ve had a great experience!

What helps you look after your margins when organising events?

When I’m hiring acts, I’ve come to realise that performers like the brass band pay for themselves, but I take stock and think about how many tickets I need to sell, but I don’t really like to charge for events. I realise I need to advertise well, and far in advance, and then create add-ons. Our pizza oven involves a cost, but it really helps to boost events too, they fly out in summer. If the football is on, I might do a deal for half-time, four bottles for a tenner, just to keep things ticking over. You need to find out where you can make money here and there, look at the overall picture.

What’s your purchasing strategy?

I forward plan, especially if I have a function or event on, you learn to anticipate different food and drink supplies for different occasions too! On a 60th birthday, people drink wine and then they might tend to go onto whiskeys, I call them the “mature drinks”. The amount of Jagerbombs I sell at a 30th birthday is phenomenal! 

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