David Hage & Mark Osborne
Star Pubs & Bars - The Railway - Lowdham, Nottingham
(Answers provided by David)
How did you get into the licensed trade?
We have been in the licensed trade over 25 years. I have always loved great village pubs and have always been keen to have my own, and Mark has previously enjoyed a great deal of success in the kitchen in some of Nottingham’s best restaurants and pubs.
Tell us a bit about your venue and why people should visit:
The Railway is an award winning village gastro-pub situated 8 miles from the center of Nottingham. Following a joint investment with Star Pubs and Bars of over £450,000 the Railway was completely transformed in March 2017.
Our ethos is to offer the best dining pub food around, created by a team of skilled and passionate chefs (lead by Mark). The menu is small but very well balanced and changes with the seasons.
The front of house is lead by myself and the general manager – Susannah. The service is genuine, customers get friendly hospitality from a team that are obsessive in making each customer experience the best it can be.
All of our wines are from a independent family owned merchant and we are proud of the 5 real ales we have and their quality. We also host a varied calendar of events throughout the year and live music in the bar every Friday night, with a beautiful dining terrace and large garden with a children’s play area.
What made you enter LOYA?
We have won 9 industry awards in our first two years. The biggest being the National Pub and Bar awards for 'Best Pub in The East Midlands.' However when I saw the BII Awards this year, I knew that this is the most coveted award in our industry to win.
The opportunity to win such an award in terms of business profile and what it can do is immeasurable.
I loved the process of putting our application together and showing off everything that we do and how great our team, pub and customers are!
What has been your experience of the judging process so far?
The judging process has been very exciting for the team.
It increases motivation (not that they need it) and enhances the pride the team have in their job. For Mark and myself it has given us another opportunity to review and reflect on how the business is performing.
Out of all the awards we have entered, this one is by far the most in depth, thorough and consistent.
What qualities do you think have got you and your pub to this final stage in LOYA?
The professional business partnership that Mark and I have is undoubtedly a major factor in all the success The Railway has enjoyed. We are incredibly passionate about The Railway, its team and customers.
We are constantly striving to be the best in ourselves and deliver the best possible customer experience in a village pub.
I also know the importance of working with great people, keeping hold of them and building an amazing team. The four managers that we have, have worked with us for nearly ten years.
What do you think winning LOYA would do for you and your business?
I can only dream…
Having seen first hand what other smaller but significant awards can do for us, obviously the most significant impact is business growth. It will make us busier. This will be as a result of the major publicity gained.
It will also aid recruitment. In a time of depleting chef levels, we will be more famous and attractive for chefs to work at. We also know that the team will get an immense dose of pride in their work and locals will be thrilled.
What do you see as the key challenges for today’s licensees?
Undoubtedly for me, the major challenge now and in the next 10-20 years is the cultural shift in how younger adults spend their leisure time.
Anecdotally, you see less and less people going into pubs below 25 or even below 30 for a drink. I can't profess to know the reasons.
So who knows what a pub will look like in 30 years time?
How do you motivate your team?
We ensure that we get all the basics correct every time: with their pay, work environment, tools, support, communication, training, feedback. Fundamentally they are all made to feel part of the team and what they do is valued all of the time.
We also have a staff of the month award, with a £40 prize and a large Christmas party every year.
What has been the most successful new idea you have introduced to your business recently?
We have introduced a new reservations booking system. This has generated extra business through the maximization of bookings and saved over £400 per month in fees.
What’s one thing you would tell your younger self starting out?
What I have done in the last two years…start out much, much earlier in life!
How do you ensure excellent customer service every time?
By recruiting a fantastic team of enthusiastic, passionate people that are obsessive about looking after customers.
We also have a very meticulous order of service that all the Front Of House staff are trained on, ensuring the entire customer journey is managed. Only managers can seat customers and take their orders and new team members have a buddy manager to train them for their first two weeks.
What’s the best part of the job you do?
Developing great people and enabling them to grow into new, exciting, challenging roles.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as a licensee?
Work in both independent and branded business to see which suits you best, learn from great leaders and adopt their best bits.
Bestselling drink in your venue?
Our best selling wine is a New Zealand Kuraka which is one of the more expensive ones on the list. It has a following and is not available anywhere else in Nottingham
What could you not do without in your day to day life as a licensee?
A supportive family and wife, plus a great business partner in Mark.