After 18 years as a member of the BII, Richard Slade recently retired from his position as Chair of the BII North region. Despite stepping down from the responsibilities of Chair, Richard will remain busy running destination hotel and restaurant Battlesteads – named as Hotel of the Year at the North East England Tourism Awards in November, after having scooped up three regional accolades earlier in 2017.
BII: How did you get into working in the pub trade?
RS: “I’ve been working in the trade since the mid-80s. I started with a restaurant and then decided to move my restaurant knowledge into pubs because there was a gap in the market, most definitely, for decent food in pubs – certainly in the North.”
BII: Given the negative press about the decline of people visiting pubs, what do you recommend pubs do, in order to ensure customer footfall?
RS: “You have to use the assets around you that are available to you, especially in a rural environment. We’ve just taken what was freely available and developed it into a positive. For people looking to get out of urban life, they’ve got the opportunity to do something really rural (at Battlesteads), but have all the qualities of decent food, decent beer, a selection of gins and spirits, so they’ve got all the modern and fashionable elements of pub life but in the middle of nowhere.”
BII: Having developed Battlesteads from a simple locals’ pub and small B&B, to a high quality restaurant and 20 bedroom hotel - what was the most important thing to focus on when making the transition?
RS: “Well it’s not about sitting at the end of the bar counting the profits - you have to get your hands dirty, you have to work with the staff and team from the front. And we explored every possible way of creating a Unique Selling Point (USP) – and once you’ve created the USP, marketing it properly. The great thing about now is that social media is the best vehicle…I think it’s brilliant for marketing.”
BII: How do you motivate your staff to deliver top quality service?
RS: “We use Trip Advisor and other review sites as a management tool. Where the mentions are good in the feedback from the clients, we have a scheme where we have a staff member of the monthe based on the number of mentions they get. And that works a dream. People love to be recognised for their work and their effort. It can even be the most junior member of staff if you get the mentions for being friendly, approachable and helpful, and wearing a name badge. Motivation isn’t all about money, it’s about recognition, so if you get thanked by the boss for a really good job you might get a bit extra on your wages but that’s not the be all and end all – actually getting recognised for excelling at your job and doing your best is sometimes enough. It’s an incentive in itself.”
BII: What has been your favourite thing about being a BII member?
RS: “I think the best thing about BII membership is the networking it gives you, you learn so much more from other people and licensees that have been through the mill and you can share what you know.”
BII: How can someone get the most out of being a BII member?
RS: “I think it’s the advice and backup. If you’re thinking of going into the licensed trade you can get the basic information you need… and taking the Pre Entry Awareness Training – that is the opportunity to discover some of the problems you’re going to encounter before you find them.
BII: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the trade?
RS: “Pub management is very much a personal thing, you can follow a guideline but it’s very much a gut feeling about how you deal with people. If you’re a good people person, and you can manage simple accounting systems and you understand the difference between profit and loss then you don’t have to have a degree in accountancy to run a pub but you certainly need to know how to deal with people. The real asset of the pub, is the licensee.”