Victoria & Gavin Hunt
Free House - The Fox - Lyng, Norfolk
How did you get into the licensed trade?
Vikki: I went to the Norwich City College Hotel school and aged 16-18 completed a BTEC in hospitality. I've stayed in the hospitality trade ever since!
Gavin: I married into the Lodge when he met Vikki in 2009 – I'm a welder by trade and engineer!
Tell us a bit about your venue, The Fox, and why people should visit:
It has something for everyone - coffee mornings, baking competitions, a large range of non alcoholic beverages, huge gin selection, great food, live music, weekly street food events - and the friendliest staff!
What made you enter LOYA?
As a member of the BII for the last 12 years I have always read about the awards but never been brave enough to enter, this year I thought we would just give it a shot.
What has been your experience of the judging process so far?
Very good! The onsite judges visit was thorough but the two judges were very good at putting us at ease.
What qualities do you think have got you and your pub to this final stage in LOYA?
Honesty, integrity and passion - I believe you have to have these three qualities to succeed in this industry.
What do you think winning LOYA would do for you and your business?
I think from a personal perspective it is like achieving the impossible - we still feel very humble when people tell us just how great they think the pub is. From a business perspective the impact could be massive - there would potentially be an increase trade and the potential to increase staffing in order to continue growing The Fox's success.
What do you see as the key challenges for today’s licensees?
Having fewer staff wishing to work bank holidays/ evenings / weekend / unsocial hours is a challenge. And there is a lack of chefs who are trained for the future.
How do you motivate your team?
Our team are very motivated, as they have their own ideas and promotions which they are allowed to develop and ‘run with.’ This keeps them passionate as they want to achieve their own success. We also hold fun in-house 'competitions' for wine sales and up-selling, with a small prize for the winner.
We do regular appraisals and are genuinely interested in the staff’s self-progression, we also offer NVQs to all staff members.
What has been the most successful new idea you have introduced to your business recently?
What should be the most successful are the ‘orderman’ digital pads for the waiting staff, they should save time and make service more efficient but so far they are proving an expensive gimmick as the staff prefer pen and paper!! Sucessfully we introduced gin! Our range has grown and grown over the last 12-18 months and we now have a choice of 30 with at least half produced in Norfolk, with the new gin menus we have had printed our gin sales have increased 10 fold as we serve with lots of lovely bespoke garnishes so they are more like a cocktail and very pleasing to the eye, all of the front of house staff can talk gin and happy to make suggestions when it comes to pairing mixers and garnishes.
What’s one thing you would tell your younger self starting out?
Don’t try to be a hero and do everything yourself! Learn to delegate more, with delegation comes responsibility and encourages the staff to care.
I still try to do everything myself but I am getting better!
How do you ensure excellent customer service every time?
Our training manuals for the front of house staff have meant that our training format is standardized - everybody receives the same knowledge and training, regardless of any previous experience. The personalized booklets give the staff something to work towards and they help each other.
In turn, this has made our customer service even better than it was!
Our main ethos when we recruit any staff member, is that we can teach the job but we cant teach friendliness and personality. We have to see that friendliness in abundance when we serve ALL customers - whether its their first or hundredth visit.
What’s the best part of the job you do?
Hearing the staff say they love their job and the customers telling us they love the staff!
What advice would you give to someone starting out as a licensee?
Make time for family… It’s very hard and we still do not do it enough - but you really need to have at least one day away.
We can achieve many things but we can never get back lost time.
Most unusual drink in your venue?
One of our regulars on occasion drinks a red wine & coke (as a pint!).
It's not on the drinks menu but we are more than happy to accommodate, even if it does make others raise their eyebrows!
Bestselling drink in your venue?
Gin and real ales…. Both of which we take great measures to source locally.
What could you not do without in your day to day life as a licensee?