Lucy Britner talks to Tina and Trevor Jobson, winners of Shepherd Neame's Food Pub of the Year 2007 Award
The Jobsons' Old House at Home was recently named Shepherd Neame's Food Pub of the Year 2007. They have been tenants at the pub in Dormansland, Surrey, for seven years and are the pub's only full-time members of staff. Although Tina doesn't describe herself as a chef, she serves an average of 350 covers a week and has earned herself the brewery's top food gongs.
Why my business is a success
We know our customers well - the pub attracts mostly middle-aged and older drinkers and diners.
People who come here don't want a daily changing menu but they want home-made, hearty food and feel reassured that they can come back a month later and enjoy the same dish. We use local suppliers and fresh food.
The only things in my freezer are ice cream, scampi and fishfingers for children. We're hands-on people: we're always here and people can see us. I oversee the kitchen and Trevor, who has the gift of the gab, looks after front-of-house.
I ran an outside catering company for 15 years, making food for parties and weddings. I wouldn't call myself a chef - I've never had any formal training - but I do know how to
put ingredients together.
The menu at the Old House at Home is traditional and British, and we split our offering into three sections to cater for all customers.
We have traditional snacks, including sandwiches, chilli and scampi and chips. Then we have our range of specials, which includes dishes such as liver and bacon, and sausages from the local butcher, which our customers love, served with mashed potato.
We don't change the menu very often because our customers really enjoy regular things. In response to demand we occasionally add dishes such as cod and chips to the menu, but usually only on a Friday night.
Quite often I stand in the kitchen and do a Ready Steady Cook-style dish from whatever I have left over from the day before - "waste not, want not" is our motto.
We also run an evening fine-dining menu from Wednesday to Saturday.
Staff and motivation
Trevor and I are the only full-time members of staff and employ several young local staff. On busy nights, there are four people in the kitchen and two front-of-house. We tend to employ people who are about to go to university, so we don't do any formal training, but I make sure they can all cook by the time they leave the Old House at Home.
We haven't had anyone who has wanted to become a chef. But I work about 100 hours a week, so it hardly seems appealing.
Plan for the ban tips
If you're thinking of starting a food offering, keep it simple and let it develop according to what customers want. Focus on a food offer they will buy rather than what you want them to buy.
We have a real niche market here of very loyal, older customers. Half of the Old House at Home is smoke-free - in the dining area - but we won't go the whole hog until we have to, when the ban is introduced on 1 July.
Our business philosophy
Serve what you would be happy to be given. Nothing leaves my kitchen that I wouldn't expect to receive. We also encourage staff to eat here and many bring in their families.
We've just signed up for another five years at the pub. Sheps is a decent brewery which lets us get on with running this business. We don't have any radical plans to
change anything as everything is working very well. We enjoy the way of life in a pub - we'll stay here as long as our legs can stand it.
Covers per week: 320 to 350
Average spend per head: £12
Wet:dry split: 50:50
GP: Approximately 62%.
Drinks: Six white wines, six reds, one rosé, Champagne. Wine prices range from £12.25 for the house bottles, up to £18.50 for a Peter Lehmann Barossa. Three Sheps real ales, including Spitfire, Master Brew and Best, with some seasonal variations. Three lagers. Trade at the pub stays strong all year round and the outlet is particularly popular during the winter, thanks to the open fire.
Our best-selling dishes
Brie with Port and redcurrant £5.25
Chicken supreme with bacon, and Stilton cream sauce £10.95
Home-made banoffee pie - £4.75
T-bone steak, chips, peas, grilled tomato £16.95
Liver and bacon with fresh vegetables and new potatoes £9.25
Haddock and chips £8.75
Mixed grill - Scotch rump steak, lamb's kidney and cutlet, gammon steak, jumbo sausages, flat mushrooms and chips £17.95