Evolution - not revolution

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Related tags: Steak, Ice cream

The Green Jacket - Shoreham-by-Sea
The Green Jacket - Shoreham-by-Sea
Mark Taylor talks to Paul Mason took over a five-year Punch lease on the Green Jackets in Shoreham-by-Sea

Paul Mason took over a five-year Punch lease on the Green Jackets in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, in December 2005.

It's his first pub venture after a career spent working in large corporate hotels such as Stakis/Hilton and MacDonalds.

Originally from south east London, but with family on the south coast, Paul had been working in the Midlands and wanted to move back to the Brighton & Hove area, where he had previously worked for three years at the Hilton hotel.

A medium-sized provincial Sussex town with a population of about 17,500 residents, Shoreham-by-Sea's harbour brought it prosperity in the 17th century from shipbuilding and trading.

A series of storms at the beginning of the 18th century caused massive destruction and in more recent times it has become a satellite town for nearby Brighton & Hove and Worthing.

"My wife and I have two-year-old twins - that makes you re-evaluate things,"​ says Paul. "We wanted to put down roots and we've always liked it here.

"My background is in hotels and food and beverage so I wanted to run a pub with a large restaurant. I didn't want a fine-dining restaurant - I wanted somewhere to do good traditional pub food. To make that work effectively, you need a reasonably-sized place."

It took Paul six months to find the right place and the Green Jackets ticked all the right boxes for the large food operation he had in mind.

Built in 1937, the building has always been a pub. Situated in a highly residential area, it attracts a large number of locals who use the pub on a regular basis.

The Green Jackets is split into three very different areas: there's a lounge/restaurant with 92 covers, a snug bar for people who just want a quiet drink and a public bar with pool tables, dart board and a large, 60-inch high-definition screen that was specially installed to show the World Cup competition. It's clearly a neighbourhood pub appealing to all sectors of the market.

After working in hotel management, Paul is clearly enjoying his first taste of life as a licensee.

He says: "I love the environment of a pub, I love working for myself and I enjoy being back on the shop floor and being in front of customers.

"Working in hotels, I found that the more I progressed, the further removed from the customer I became, so it's good to be enjoying that contact again.

"Of course, running a busy pub like this is hard work, but it's also good fun."

Promotions/special offers​Paul has introduced a number of special offers and promotions to increase the average spend of his customers - currently £5.75 for lunch and £8.95 for dinner.

He says: "We've increased the menu and started offering lunch and dinner meal-deals.

"We hope to push up the average spend and encourage people to order two or three courses, rather than just having steak pie."

The lunch meal-deal costs £5 for one course, £6.75 for two and £8.75 for three. The dinner meal-deal costs £9.75 for two courses and £11.75 for three.

Paul says: "I've picked some of the more expensive items for the meal-deal - like rump steak (£8.95) and lamb shank in minted gravy (£8.95) - so customers can enjoy a starter or dessert for only 80p extra."

The smoking ban​So how will the forthcoming smoking ban affect business at the Green Jackets?

Paul is confident that recent improvements to the pub's external area means that it will be pretty much business as usual.

He says: "We refurbished our outside area at the end of March to capitalise on the summer: we erected a 19ft parasol across the outside area with new tables and chairs and added heating and lighting, so that should set us up for the smoking ban. I don't think it's going to have a huge effect on us because we've already done something about it."

Menu philosophy​Although Paul acknowledges the success and influence of gastropubs, he's also well aware that residential pub catering is an entirely different business and clearly knows his market.

He says: "I think gastropubs are great, but they have their place. They've certainly taken food forward in the UK, but they have to be in the right location.

"In Brighton & Hove there are a few gastropubs that are doing well, but I don't know whether they would work in this location.

"I'm not a chef, so I didn't want to have the experience of being beholden to a chef who did a fantastic menu but then would leave me high and dry if they left.

"What we do here isn't flashy - it certainly doesn't resemble a gastropub, but it's what the market here wants.

"This was a successful business when I bought it so it needed evolution, not revolution. It was well known for its good-quality food, simply cooked and offering value for money."

Suppliers​Paul says: "We've just started to put on a fresh fish dish of the week, which we order from a local supplier and it has proven to be very popular. We've changed our butcher and now buy in English mature beef and steaks, which are big sellers. We've also started to use the award-winning ice cream supplier Criterion. They're based in Suffolk and have been making ice cream since the 1920s. Their ice creams are excellent and they've gone down very well, especially during the heatwave."

Best-selling dishes​Despite a wet:dry split of 60:40, the Green Jackets is still doing more than 700 covers a week and taking about £7,000 on food.

The pub's menus are extensive and well-priced, starting at £6.75 for the home-made pies and rising to £12.95 for the fillet steak, which is the most expensive dish on the menu. The best-selling dishes are ham, egg and chips, which costs £6.95, the hand-made pies and the steaks.

Paul's three chefs make 60% of the food themselves, including the hugely-popular home-made pies and burgers. They buy in 40% of the food, and work to a gross profit of 55%.

According to Paul, the art of running a successful pub all boils down to offering customers traditional pub food made from quality raw materials, cooked simply and nicely-presented.

He says: "We're seen by our locals and our regulars as a pub offering good-value food. Our main menu changes every six months, but we like to change the specials as often as possible.

"You've got to keep things fresh and interesting."

Paul's Top Tips​Unsurprisingly for somebody who worked in large hotels, Paul considers that customer service and public relations are essential to running a successful business. He says: >em>"We give our customers comment cards to complete and organise a prize draw at the end of the month. Talking to the customers and providing them with what they want is absolutely key. You've got to listen to their comments and be seen to react to anything they aren't happy with."

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