Skip to main content

Chris Norfolk FBII

The Elm Tree

Chris Norfolk was a BII Licensee of the Year finalist in 2018, with his fantastic venue, The Elm Tree at Elmton. The BII’s Molly Davis caught up with him to find out what has changed over the last year and his plans for the future…including winning LOYA 2020!

The Elm Tree is a picturesque venue if ever there was one, set in an acre of land in the Derbyshire village of Elmton. Chris, as Chef Proprietor, controls the food side of the business, and in his own words says, “Wherever the fire is, I’ll be!” However, he also shares the credit for running a successful hospitality business with every member of the team, especially since they have taken on their second venue – The Angel & Harlequin Bistro in Spinkhill.

Chris remains the passionate lead for menus in both locations, but leaves the day-to-day running to his general manager, Sue. With his wife, xxxxx running the marketing side of the business, from social media to website management, the whole team excel in their individual roles.

Their newest venture, the Angel & Harlequin Bistro, has been part of the business for 4 years, but a recent refurbishment and a collaborative approach to managing both venues has changed the businesses for the better.

The Elm Tree fulfils the role of a traditional food led pub with Sunday roasts and hearty, gravy covered pies taking centre stage, whilst the Angel & Harlequin serves a varied menu throughout the day from Brunch to Afternoon Tea as well as pizzas, pastas, light bites and specials. Combine this with the busy events calendar at the beautiful Elm Tree, and Chris and his team have their hands full making cakes, pastries and feasts alongside the everyday menus.

Location is key, with the Elm Tree taking centre stage in the summer months, hosting weddings and parties in their garden Tipis and newly refurbished barn. Meanwhile, 15 minutes down the road in Spinkhill, summer is a little quieter, as a lot of daytime trade comes from the school in the village. This means Chris and the team can hop from venue to venue as needed, making the most of their time and skill sets. This flexibility is vital to fitting everything in, especially as they take on outside catering jobs as well.

When asked the secret to the success of his business, Chris could say it’s the reputation they have for food, or the fantastic rolling hills that surround the Elm Tree, but he doesn’t hesitate to say that it’s his staff.

“The staff are the lifeblood of our business – the front of house team are friendly, chatty and make the guest experience an excellent one across the board. I always say that we could serve great food, but if we had poor staff, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful. I’m very proud of our food, but we all have off days and having amazing staff means that if there are ever any problems, their attitude and professionalism save the day.”

When we last spoke to Chris, getting good chefs on board was his biggest challenge, but their investment in their staff training and development seems to have paid off. Getting chef whites personalised with their nicknames adds to the sense of camaraderie that they clearly have in the kitchen, as well as the support they offer through NVQs and Apprenticeships.

Chris also confidently tells us that 2020 will be the year they win our Licensee of the Year competition – so watch this space come June next year! The healthy competitive spirit clearly carries through to the rest of the staff – the latest battle centring on Latte Art after recent completion of barista courses at the Angel. Team spirit and a good sense of humour is clearly is a common thread which comes across when speaking to Chris, but also in the social media feeds of both pubs.

We’re sure that the hard work and dedication put into the businesses over the last few years is paying dividends, and we’re looking forward to their entry for LOYA 2020…

Running multiple venues is a challenge that Chris and his team have taken on with relish, and the BII is here to offer support every step of the way. Our newest membership, Club BII, offers business owners with 2 or more sites a chance to give their venue managers access to all the benefits we provide.

Call us today to find out more – 01276 684449 and ask about Club BII.

Chris has been in the licensed trade since he did work experience in a local restaurant when he was at school and has had his own pub with his wife xxxx for the past 11 years.

How do you motivate your staff?

Lots of ways – keeping everyone informed about how we are doing as a business financially is important. Sending staff on courses: foraging, sausage making, barista skills, wine training – the list goes on.

What has been your proudest moment?

The day we got the keys to the pub. The first time we finished and cashed up for the evening was brilliant. We knew then, this was the right thing for us.

Other member stories