Jolly good show
With a farm shop in their pub, one Surrey couple gets the best of both worlds. Nigel Huddleston talks to licensee Paula Briscoe
The prize for best diversification at the Countryside Alliance's Rural Retailer of the Year awards went to a deli this year. And a pub.
No, it wasn't a tie; they're one and the same business - the Jolly Farmers, in Buckland, Surrey. Licensee Paula Briscoe and her husband, Jon, took on the pub as a franchise from pub company Mitchells & Butler in 2005 and turned one end
into a modern deli and farm shop focusing on locally-sourced products, including English wines, bottle-conditioned beers, cider and soft drinks.
All are displayed
in the shop bit of the pub, with laminated posters providing background on the producers, including the food miles from source to shelf. The deli contributed around 10% of the
Paula Briscoe explains how the set-up works.
have more seating for diners and stick to the basics of pub retailing?
It was two years ago when we identified a gap in the market where after 5.30pm you couldn't go in a shop locally. Secondly, we forecast that the smoking ban was going to come in because Ireland had gone that way and it was inevitable it would happen in the UK
and could bring about a downtrend in pub trade . We'd also always just wanted to have a farm shop and deli, but weren't from a farming background. We had the space and this gave us a way of doing it.
How has it worked out for you?
It's worked really well. You don't make high margins in the shop compared with the pub because it's just the same as the high street, but it gives people a different reason to come and visit the pub. We get people from 9.30am all through the day, even up until 10pm buying bottled beer or wine.
Were you influenced by the long-term trend from on-trade to off-trade?
Definitely, and the main reason we went for a deli and farm shop style, and the products we've got in there, is because there are a lot of local breweries and vineyards, as well as other food producers, that people just don't know about. A lot of the smaller brewers have been around for some time but people don't realise they're on the doorstep.
How does your supplier base differ between the two sides of the business?
We use Hog's Back on the bar and Harveys, but in the deli we have WJ King, Hepworth's, Hog's Back and a cider company called Mr Whitehead's, which is actually down in Hampshire. When we first started, there weren't many local suppliers who would support us because they have minimum orders and want cash on delivery. We didn't want to tie up lots of money in stock if the idea wasn't going to work. Whitehead's
was one of the ones
that supported us.
We've got nationally available premium soft drinks such as Frobisher's and Fentimans, but we
also have Godstone apple juice and pear juice which is made up the road, and a local product called Granstead's ginger.
The pub is tied through your franchise agreement, so how does M&B feel about you doing this?
We have a special agreement that in the bar area we'll use all the products available from the main buying list, but we're free to buy for the shop from a smaller approved list that we've worked out with them. The margins are negligible as far as M&B is concerned so it's not going to hit them. The drink element is only part of the deli and it's not like we have racks and racks full of wine. We don't sell everything from the pub wine list in there, because we only use the shop to champion local producers.
Why limit yourself like that?
Because they're on our doorstep and they're fab and we feel we want to put something back into the local community. The wines are predominantly from Denbies, which is just down the road, and we've recently added fruit wines and liqueurs from Lurgashall. We also list Battle Wines which is based down near Hastings, and award-winning sparkling wine from Nyetimber. Denbies has supported us right from the beginning. The people from there come in here and drink their own wine - at my prices.
How do people use the shop?
We probably get 10% of people who come in just for the deli. You do tend to get couples coming in and the women head off to the deli and the men go for a beer in the bar, but the bottled beer obviously gets them into the shop too. We do a special offer of three-for-£5.80, which we're not making a great margin on but it shifts volume and makes people more aware of it. At Christmas we had a gift-wrapping service for it too.
Because we sell a couple of English wines by the glass on the pub's wine menu they're always open, which means we can offer someone a taste. I did it for someone the other day in the pub and they went to buy a couple of wines in the shop.
Do you have dedicated staff for the deli?
It's difficult to have someone in there permanently because we're not on the high street and it would be difficult to make it pay. The serving point is right at the end of the bar, so the bar staff double up for the deli.
But we try to instil passion in everyone by involving them through visits to suppliers. The managers have all been out to Lurgashall and Denbies and when you're aware of what it's all about, it's easy to sell .
A lot of us have learnt how to make blue cheese and chutney, and how fish is smoked. The latest way we're incentivising staff is for them
to go off to Hepworth's to learn how to make beer.
I've just done some new shelf-edge labels, almost 200 of them, describing all the beers, wines and other products.
Because a lot of the staff are young
women they're not au fait with bottle-conditioned ales, so it helps them to talk about them too.