South West BII member Paul Berry runs Devon gastro pub The Swan, which has recently won and been listed in the .
With their sights set on taking a third accolade in the upcoming, and being recognised as a Fellow BII member after working more than 10 years in the trade, Paul took some time to chat to us about The Swan’s success and his experiences in the industry.
BII: Your pub The Swan has gone from strength to strength this year, what do you think has made it stand out in these recent competitions?
I think that the top of the bottom is that me and [partner] Donna are very hands on. We’re honest about what we do, and there’s no sort of pretentiousness with us or anything like that...and obviously we’re into our own province of food where possible.
BII: What advice would you give to other licensees looking to enter their pub into competitions?
I think if you’re going to do a tourism award you have to read the application form very carefully …and read in between the lines and give as much information about your business as you can.
[For example] when it comes to ‘sustainability’ [in award entry requirements] it doesn’t mean like eco light bulbs, sustainability’s a long subject – it goes from activities you might do in the village, to what paint you might have on the walls, what clubs you support etcetera - so the list is quite endless when you start looking.
BII: How can these kind of competitions and awards benefit a pub?
Initially you want to get them out to come visit you. And the benefit of entering a tourism award is somebody comes out to judge you and they make observations about your business and you get a feedback form and that is quite positive for you – whether it’s negative on the report, but it’s positive for your business.
BII: How did you get into the industry and running pubs?
I started as and am still a chef, I did it from the moment I left school. I’ve always been in the trade, but I got into pubs when I was about 30… I got involved in a partnership with my parents, we got a pub together down in Buckinghamshire. Then I left there, met my wife, and she decided we should get a pub [together]…
BII: What’s the best thing about working in the Swan?
No days ever the same, even though they sometimes feel like it… no day with your customers is ever the same.
BII: Why did you join BII? Have you used any services?
Well obviously it’s good for the trade. And I did have an opportunity about 5 years ago when I used the BII to get some information I needed, I was in a really sticky situation…They did give me some sound advice.
We had two pubs at the time and we were looking at closing one, and we had issues with the landlord etcetera so we needed to find out where we stood on the legality, but yeah we came out of that situation and were here today… from having a successful business to (it) nearly dyeing, to building something successful again which is a lot more stable.