Mayfair Taverns believes a caring attitude results in a successful business. Lorna Harrison finds out how it follows this theory through.
Oxfordshire-based Mayfair Taverns has just celebrated its first birthday and is happy to boast about its progress over the past year.
Up until now the company has remained fairly low-key about its business activities but now has firm plans and ideas it is more than willing to highlight.
Mayfair was formed in April 1996 following a management buyout of Ascot Holdings for £30m. Former head of Ascot, Anthony Wilkinson is managing director of Mayfair which has a staff of 23 based at Banbury.
Wilkinson is keen to shake-off the old "property company" image which some say Ascot held and is working hard to develop the "caring pub company" profile.
Indeed, Wilkinson is a firm believer that a caring attitude towards tenants is the key to a successful pub and a profitable pub business.
Wilkinson wants to see a close relationship between management and the 251 tenants in the estate and encourages social get-togethers where tenants can have a free stab at criticism or concerns they may have.
Mayfair gives its tenants a free hand at making a success of their pubs, offering support and incentives to help them achieve this.
"We believe in more carrot and less stick," Wilkinson says proudly. "We want to be the best pub company with the best tenants. We want to make our business look attractive, so that people will want to come to us."
The estate comprises 251 pubs — 75 per cent community and 25 per cent town or rural — which are spread all over England.
The company is actively looking to boost the estate barrelage from the current 50,000 a year to 250,000 barrels. Wilkinson believes this can be done by improving the performance of individual tenants and boosting the number of pubs.
Mayfair hopes to add at least 60 pubs to the estate before the end of the year. It will consider either a package or individual pubs and may also look at the possibility of buying a smaller pub company if the opportunity arises.
Although Wilkinson agrees that the tenanted market is generally declining, he is firmly fixed on developing his tenanted estate and will not be converting any of the existing houses into management.
However, should Mayfair buy any company which has a managed house estate it will maintain and develop that side of the business as well.
Over the past year, Mayfair has invested in the region of £1m on refurbishing many of the pubs in the estate and a similar level of cash in due to be spent this year.
However, no two pubs will look the same and tenants are encouraged to bring their own characters and personalities into pubs — whether through decoration, food or entertainment.
Existing tenants are either on traditional three-year agreements or 20-year leases. "It is our aim to get everyone signed over to the 20-year leases, but the decision will remain with the tenant," says Wilkinson.
Mayfair has produced its own Code of Practice on tenancies and is keen that new tenants are made fully aware of their obligations before they commit to a tenancy agreement or lease.
Beer supply agreements exist with Carlsberg-Tetley and Scottish Courage and other suppliers include Matthew Clark Whole-salers, Golden Wonder Crisps, ACM Vending and HP Bulmer.
Tenants do have a minimum barrelage obligation which is mutually agreed with their business development managers.
Wilkinson is, however, keen to point out that no penalty is given if there is evidence that the tenant/lessee has been working hard to achieve the targets.
Incentives are offered to help tenants achieve their goals and 32 high performing tenants are being treated to an all-expenses trip to Malta.
All tenants are encouraged to take training, whether they have been in the business for a few months or years. All new tenants have to take a compulsory course to gain the National Licensee's Certificate, BII Qualifying and Health and Safety Certificate.
"You wouldn't put anyone in charge of a business turning over in the region of £250,000 — so why should it be different for pubs?" said Wilkinson.
Mayfair is clearly a company which is eager to move forward. Forgetting the past and looking firmly to the future, the company has many exciting plans and aims to take it well into the 21st Century.
A recent in-house survey among 30 of its tenants revealed that the majority had noticed a change for the better.
"We will always welcome criticism and act in the best interests of our tenants," said Wilkinson.
"As a company our aim is not to be the biggest but the best and I feel we are certainly on the right tracks."