Mary talks to us here about her BII Membership and the challenges of running a pub in 2018.
1) How long have you been a BII Member and why did you join?
I joined when Nick and I took on our first pub in 2009-so nearly a decade now, that’s scary! I joined to have professional support in case I needed it. I don’t think you ever know when you might need help and industry support from a professional body such as the BII. I have been a Fellow member for the past 3 years and the FBII title always leads to great conversations about my qualifications!
2) Have you used our helplines recently? If so, how did you find the service?
Yes I have. A lady was trying to sue us over a non-refundable booking and I spoke to the dedicated solicitors to get advice.
3) Is there anything unique about your venue? What’s your favourite thing about your business?
We offer Sabrage (opening Champagne bottles with a Sabre) for a small fee and it makes for a great show. We also run food and wine tasting events which are a great way for people to learn about what complements their meal.
Being a husband and wife team, it means we always have our eye on what is happening FOH and BOH and have each other’s backs to ensure service and food is consistent if we are absent.
The FOH team has been with me between 2.5 years and 4.5 years which I believe is rare these days. We try to treat others the best we possibly can, using what we’ve learned along the way – we’ve learnt from the best and worst experiences! I’ve just taken on our first apprentice and she is learning a trade and becoming very confident. It’s great to see.
4) We’ve recently updated our website - are you registered at Bii.org? If so what to you use the site for?
Yes I am. I use the contract builder which is fantastic, and I like catching up with industry news on the web and via the Monday newsletter, INNfocus.
5) Would you recommend joining the BII to other licensees? If so, why?
Yes, I feel it’s a very supportive organization that you don’t always see youll need until it happens. It’s also my go to for industry advice, anything from Brexit, budgets, new trends, pub takeovers, award ceremonies etc.
6) What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?
Firstly, expect to need at least double the money you’ve budgeted for – there are always unexpected costs!
Also, this wasn’t advice as such, but I spent a long time in one job not being paid on time and it’s taught me the importance of wages to staff. If there’s one thing we do, we always try not to mess staff around with their wages.
7) There is a lot of pressure on pubs at the moment – what’s are your current issues/challenges?
We try to be innovative in comparison to other venues, by offering new products, but people are not always willing to try different things and increasing prices always make for a tricky sale. Maintaining our brand, passion and ethos helps though, as our regular customers trust our judgement and advice.
Finding committed chefs who want to learn and work their way up in the right way is probably our biggest challenge at the moment though.
8) What has been the most successful new idea you have introduced to your business recently?
We were keen to encourage a reduction on cars and pollution in our small village, but also wanted to discourage drink driving, so we gave a discount to those who travelled by train. It really worked well as a talking point!
9) What is your favourite thing about working in the licensed retail sector?
My work is my social life and my colleagues are my friends. I often come into work to find a cup of tea set up with a little jug of milk, my name and a ‘have a good morning’ note.