Wise investement can make your garden pay

Related tags Public house

Whatever your budget, an imaginative investment can make your garden pay.Understandably, some publicans are reluctant to invest in their garden when...

Whatever your budget, an imaginative investment can make your garden pay.

Understandably, some publicans are reluctant to invest in their garden when you can't even rely on the sun coming out. But one London freehouse has proved that you don't have to spend thousands to make a difference - and next year you might be able to afford something more spectacular.

In April 2000, when Paul McKinley and Katie Reed took over the Rising Sun in Battersea, they poured in all their own savings and borrowed up to the hilt.

The refit that transformed it into the Settle Inn cost £160,000, stretching their budget to the full - and when it came to sprucing up the garden they had about £100 left in the kitty.

With an outdoor area roughly the same size as the interior at 1,200sqft and being only 200 yards from Battersea Park, they knew that it would be popular over the summer months and they needed to come up with a practical, affordable solution.

Paul's wife Zoe mentioned that, on holiday in the Caribbean, she had noticed that wooden cable reels made excellent tables for the beach bars, with driftwood and sections of tree trunk as stools. One week later and well within the £100 budget the Settle Inn garden could seat about 100 people around cable reels of varying sizes and heights. (See pictures above)

Zoe's green fingers meant there was a colourful array in the flower beds which were also used to grow fresh herbs for the kitchen and mint for the Pimm's. A petanque terrain was installed using railway sleepers and a lorry-load of gravel and, finally, a barbecue was set up to cater for the weekend crowds.

A year later, with the bank account looking healthier following the Settle Inn's Evening Standard Pub of the Year title, Katie and Paul decided to re-invest some of the profits.

Architect and next-door neighbour Peter Faggater was called in to design a new garden from scratch. A budget of £20,000 was allocated and a 10-week timescale allotted to complete the work, which involved first gaining planning permission. Champagne Bollinger offered to sponsor the garden and the increase in budget meant that no expense was spared.

Now complete, the main feature is a 500sqft pergola with a raised deck floor and a remote-controlled retractable canvas roof. This area can seat up to 60 people and, with mushroom heaters and lighting, can comfortably accommodate customers throughout the year, doubling up as a separate function room whatever the weather.

Another feature is a 40-seater one-piece bench table with built in heaters that runs the entire length of the garden. This, combined with metal alfresco café-style furniture takes the maximum seating capacity up to 140.

The next project for the Settle Inn is a kitchen extension to cope the expected increase in demand for food!

The Black Boy, Knowle, West Midlands

Installing a 4,000 litre bulk gas tank has opened up fresh opportunities to exploit the garden at the Black Boy.

As well as fuelling the kitchen and heating at the pub, this summer it will be keeping customers warm in the garden and sizzling food on the barbecue.

Set in idyllic surroundings next to the Grand Union Canal just outside the village of Knowle in Solihull, the pub is already an award winner.

Following extensive building work to expand the capacity of the pub, incorporating a large outdoor area in 1999, owner John Rigby contacted Calor Gas with a view to putting in outdoor patio heaters.

"Calor's technical rep suggested installing a 4,000 litre underground bulk tank in the field in front of the pub," said John.

"Engineers came and fitted the tank, plumbed in the supply to the pub and filled it up. I was surprised at how smooth the whole process was. There was virtually no disruption to the running of the pub."

As part of Calor's customer support, a regular programme of maintenance, refuelling and cylinder "milk runs" are operated to make sure the Black Boy is always gassed up. If problems occur, a customer support helpline is just a phone call away.

The garden has seating for 300, trebling the Black Boy's capacity. As Calor Gas sales manager Eddie Wilson pointed out, in that kind of situation the potential of outdoor heating is vast.

"By keeping up to 300 customers comfortable as it becomes colder, a large proportion are more likely to stay an extra 30 minutes to an hour. This creates more revenue for the pub and allows people to enjoy the surroundings without catching a chill.

"Installing 10 patio heaters around the premises we were able to achieve the desired effect and John also bought a large gas barbecue to feed his customers."

That should add to the Black Boy's reputation for good food and a large kitchen already capable of serving up to 1,000 meals a day.

"Weather permitting we will barbecuing on gas this summer," catering manager Bob Dickson commented.

"The flexibility of gas allows us to fire up the barbecue almost instantly - a great advantage if we get a big coach party in."

This summer the Black Boy is preparing for a record number of visitors and John predicts a quick payback on his hot new investment.

(Picture: Catering manager Bob Dickson gets ready to cook)

The Smith's Arms, Stockton-on-Tees

Working in partnership with the local parish council, the Smith's Arms identified an opportunity to capitalise on the local love of football and turned its beer garden into a mini grass football pitch.

As well as organising regular adult five-a-side tournaments, the garden hosts charity events in which families can enjoy face painting, outdoor games and live music.

"For people with children, the pub has become more of a meeting point," said Pubmaster tenant Paul Shafto.

"By using the garden in a creative way I've managed to increase customer flow and grow my customer base during both non-peak and peak trading times."

Related topics Property law

Property of the week

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more