The Ribs of Beef, Fye Bridge

Related tags Norwich Norfolk

A "city local" is how Roger Cawdron, chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping's Anglia region, describes the Ribs of Beef, his freehouse at...

A "city local" is how Roger Cawdron, chairman of the British Institute of Innkeeping's Anglia region, describes the Ribs of Beef, his freehouse at Fye Bridge, next to the River Wensum.

"We're not really a typical Norwich pub," he says.

"We've evolved into what I call a city local, particularly as a lot of the smaller factories round here have closed down and been turned into accommodation.

"We have a lot of professional people in at lunchtime, and we see them again for an after-work session when they pop in for a pint before getting the train.

"And our Sunday lunch business has picked up too.

City-centre pubs are generally quiet on Sundays, but Norwich is now one of the top-10 cities for shopping, so that's bringing people in seven days a week."

The Ribs is managed by Cawdron's son-in-law Gary Gilvey and daughter Joolia, who are both licensees.

Cawdron and wife Anthea have also been co-licensees everywhere they have worked ­ which includes at least half a dozen Norwich pubs.

"If you're married you have to be prepared to work long hours ­ and work together."

Despite his commitments in the BII and as a trustee of the Norfolk and Norwich Licensed Victuallers Association, Cawdron calls in at the Ribs most days and works at least two full sessions a week.

He's well aware of the pressure from cut-price chains, but says the answer for independents is to specialise, whether in food or in drink.

"We've deliberately gone for a different market to Wetherspoon's," he says.

This includes targeting the many accountants, architects, surveyors and lawyers based in the vicinity.

"We're still very competitive, but people who know what good food is will come here.

We use local meat and vegetables, and fish from the local fishmongers."

His cheapest beer is Courage Best at £1.40, but Stella Artois is £2.65 and "we're up to £3 a pint for the heavy gravity beers".

Norfolk breweries and microbreweries are featured in "beer festivals" from time to time, and wine sales have picked up markedly.

"We used to sell a case of wine a week.

We sell up to 10 now, often by the bottle.

Most of our wines are in the £10 mark, but we've got a connoisseur's collection that goes up to £20 and we've others up to £100."

Malt whisky sales are also rising.

"Again, connoisseurs come in for the really unusual stuff.

Generally, pubs are a great testing and tasting centre.

Before people will spend £20 to £30 in a supermarket, if they see it in a pub they'll try a couple of measures."

Although he describes the licensed trade as "quite a precarious profession", Cawdron also says buying the Ribs was the best thing he ever did.

"This is my pension fund," he says.

He and Anthea also bought Catton Old Hall, to thenorth-west of the city, 15 years ago, and have been slowly developing it as a small, luxury B&B hotel.

And Cawdron doesn't rule out another venture.

"Gary and Joolia have two young kids.

Once they're at school I'll probably go on the acquisition trail again.

Or I'll retire.

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