Combining her passion for working in the bustling London pub scene with the challenge of helping small businesses flourish, Maddy was eager to chat with us about the future of the licensed trade and the value of engaging with the BII…
BII: Why have you recently re-joined the BII and started working in the licensed trade again?
On and off, I have been a member now for about 7 years.
I kind of took a step back from the trade for a few years then I came back because I love it too much I couldn’t stay away.
BII: What kind of work did you do while not running pubs?
I tried something different, marketing for the trade, for a bit - which was brilliant but I think it was a lot of office work, which is great but essentially the pub trade is a social one so I kind of felt that I missed that. So I wanted to come back again.
BII: Who do you work for now?
are based in Brighton, they’re a brewery and a pub company. They brew their own beer and they pretty much have 80% of Brighton’s pubs more or less I think. They’re a massive company, and they came into London about maybe 3, 4 years ago, and they’ve got about 30 pubs if I’m not mistaken at the moment in London.
BII: What is your job at Laines?
I joined last year in August as a project manager and went into one of the busiest pubs in East London called The). It was really, really, busy in the middle of summer, which was one of the most amazing intense experiences.
I get put into different pubs that they have, depending on what pubs they need help with. I’ve been working in one of the Laines pub in Leytonstone calledit’s a really nice, really pretty pub that’s been designed with Alfred Hitchcock in mind. It’s brilliant.
The manager there, Rich and I opened The Birds - we put stuff together, got staff in, trained them. Laines also asked me to set up opening a hostel at the top of the pub.
So I set up the Birds Hostel, put it online, sold the rooms during Christmas time – that’s when it went live. Opening a hostel online is not what I thought I’d be doing – but it was brilliant! Amazing experience.
BII: Do you think accommodation is a growth area for the pub trade?
There’s definitely a market there but it’s not as easy as one thinks, it’s not like you can just say “oh I’ve got a room upstairs I’ll turn it into a hostel and sell the rooms.” It’s a lot of trial and error and you eventually learn, but I do think it’s definitely a good market for pubs.
I’ve met people since I set up the hostel that are doing it now, following suit.
BII: What are the challenges you faced setting up the accommodation?
I think it came with a lot of little things that you might not know about if you haven’t done it before. For me particularly it was a learning curve - it was a bit of a trial and error, so I kind of put the hostel online and we learnt that obviously some things don’t work out. The website wasn’t quite right, so then we had to adjust to that.
Also it’s not just a case that you have hostel rooms, you put them online, and they are just going to sell themselves - I still need to constantly go back and look at pricing strategy, adjust pricing strategy to the month we’re in, look at where we are located, and the clientele etc.
You also get people you don’t actually want in your hostel! You don’t always get the people that you think you’ll be getting. So you have to adjust and adapt.
BII: Several years ago you ran the puband won our , how did it feel to achieve this?
On a personal level it was pretty amazing you know, I worked hard at the Camden Eye for many years and when I won the award it was sort of really bringing the hard work all together for me. I’ve got great memories from that day.
BII: Do you think entering competitions like the Licensee of the Year is beneficial to publicans?
It’s really important I think, you do a lot of hours, a lot of training, and you talk to the people about your work, but the award is a complete different level.
It’s nationwide acknowledgement that makes you feel that you’ve actually been doing something really great - so it’s brilliant.
I only went through to the finals the first time around, then the second time I won, because I took all the feedback from the first one and adopted it.
BII: What advice would you give to publicans entering competitions like the Licensee of the Year?
I literally went through everything they told me, I would say my advice would just be that – listen to the advice from the judges, and if you don’t win its okay - just go back!
Look at your business again, with a fresh different perspective, and then come back and do it again next year and you might win because that’s how it works sometimes.
And if you don’t win – at least you’ve taken your business to another level that you didn’t think you could!
I think what happens often, is you run a business doing everything really well and so you feel there’s nothing you’re missing out on, but then you get these judges in and they find things you wouldn’t even have thought of!