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Kim Barker - LOYA 2018 Finalist

The Ship Inn, Pentewan, Cornwall

Kim’s challenging introduction to the licensed trade has only strengthened her resolve to put Cornish hospitality on the map, and this year’s competition has proved the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

Facebook: @theshipinnpentewan


How did you get into the licensed trade?

About 20 years ago my husband decided that he wanted to move to a different part of the country for a better life for our daughter who was only 8 at the time. I hated the thought!

Sadly after a couple of years he got really poorly, and I decided that I would help in the pub and that’s where I started.

After 5 years or so in the business he sadly passed away, but then I moved into the training pub for St Austell brewery and it was one of those things – I wanted to prove I could do it.

So I went from not being interested in the business, to trying to support my husband, to being where I am today.  I say thank you to him every day, he’s passed on and hasn’t been able to see how well we’ve done but I’m sure he’s with me.

My daughter now runs a pub too so it’s come out in the family big time!


Tell us a bit about your venue and why people should visit

The motto we have up says ‘you don’t have to be local to be treated like one.’ And I think we give the best welcome around! In Cornwall we are so seasonal, we have the ‘locals’ who come two or three times are year - we call them our seasonal locals!

Obviously the value is in what we serve, but I think our customer service is just as important as that. Over the years we’ve introduced a beer festival, now a recognized annual event, and holidaymakers actually ring us and ask ‘what day is the event’ so they can book their holidays around it now!


What are your goals for your business?

Obviously we want to grow the business year on year. Sometimes I surprise myself with what we do because every year I think ‘how can we top that?’ but touch wood we seem to!

Our goal is to now do better in the winter months when it’s quieter.

We’ve introduced discounts like a carvery meal for £5, and we saw sales go from doing about half dozen meals in the depths of winter to regularly over 120 each week!


What made you enter LOYA?

It was the brewery. I’ve never entered anything in my life, this was the first time ever and they kept saying we should. So I thought, no one else is going to shout out about Pentewan, and I love where I am and the community and I thought there’s only me that’s going to shout out about it!


What has been your experience of the judging process?

We had the message that we’d made it through to the semi-finals and then had the judges visit, and they were so easy to talk to that it took all the nerves away. In the end they probably wanted to tell me to shut up! It was the first time I’d talked to people outside of my actual pub about how proud I am of the place.


What do you see as the key challenges for today’s licensees?

The sad thing is here in Pentewan, a lot of the homes are holiday homes. So what we have to do is try and encourage people from the neighboring villages to come out and support us in the quieter seasons – and they do, we obviously get through, but there are some pubs in the very next village that have to close at Christmas until the end of February. Or some that are closed for the early part of the week and open up for the weekend.

I’ve tried all that too and even though takings do go down in the winter, I can’t bring myself to close the doors. We’re a pub, we should be open.


How do you motivate your team?

There’s 6 of us that are here all year round, they’re like my little family. They help me motivate the seasonal summer staff, and we have regular team briefs where we go through what we all want and if there are any business decisions or something I want to try I won’t do it without us having a team brief first. I always say I don’t claim to have all the ideas, I’m up for listening. If they’re a part of the initial idea, they become committed and loyal. If they help with the ideas they want to see it work and succeed.


What is your favourite time of day as a licensee and why?

At the end of the night in the summer, sometimes they can be very challenging days with over 300 meals and 6 people deep at the bar. We sit down at the end of the day and have a laugh, we go over what went well, what didn’t, and if someone’s feeling down we all pick each other up. Nobody goes home feeling rubbish.


What could you not do without in your day to day life as a licensee?

Obviously my team – but I would also say a kettle! I also buy fruit and all our staff can help themselves to it behind the bar, they can have as much cordial as they want, and a cup of tea. Whatever is going to help them get through, and I love a cup of tea!


What is your proudest moment as a licensee?

When we introduced our beer festival I won the marketing and innovation award from the brewery! Last year I’d done 10 years at the Ship Inn and we decided to have a party, we had a 60s theme party with baby sham and old sweets, and the turnout was  absolutely fantastic! I didn’t realize, but a lot of our ‘seasonal locals’ had come! The BNB’s were full, people had come from all over the country. And it was in November, out of season, it overwhelmed me to see how much they thought of the pub.


How do you ensure excellent customer service every time?

We really just go that extra mile with the individuals. For example if there’s a kid in and they’ve eaten all their dinner or been really good we give them a little chocolate bar, and regularly saying to staff that if they notice something and think we need to go that extra mile for someone to just do it. We can do that here. And giving that constant training and giving constant feedback to the staff - you’ve got to keep talking to your team and leading by example.


What’s the best part of the job you do?

The welcome! As anyone comes in, if they’re welcomed when they come in we see the feedback on Facebook and you see that we have become a real part of that person’s holiday. The feedback we get is so encouraging.


What advice would you give to someone starting out as a licensee?

From someone who never wanted to do this job, I’d say you have to live and breathe the job – but make time for yourself as well. You have to adore what you do and be positive, if you’re just doing it for a 9-5 then you won’t last. But I do get frustrated to hear of licensee’s working over 100 hours a week, if you’ve got a good team you can rely on, then there is no reason you can’t have a work life balance and manage your time. Put your all into it, that’s without question, but you can enjoy time to yourself.


What has been your biggest lesson learned in business?

I’m fortunate that I have a house away from the pub, which gives me the chance to go home after work. My daughter lives above the pub and while I do stay here a couple nights a week, I’ve got my own place because you have to think about your retirement – one day! Not for a long time, but one day.


What qualities do you think have got you to this final stage in LOYA?

I adore the job, the pub, and I’m an old–style landlady. We have had a couple of refurbs at The Ship but kept the character. By bringing in new systems or updating the pub I bring old and new ways of working together. I’ve got the old fashioned values, but I keep things updated.


What do you think winning LOYA would do for you and your business?

It would put Pentewan on the map, we’re a hidden gem down here and I haven’t shouted out enough about it before. It would be fantastic, I’d be so proud, the whole community would be so proud! What I’d look forward to if we were lucky enough to win is what we’d do next, we’d be open to do a lot more things like this.

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