THE TIMES they are a-changing at the White Hart - and the category champions are beginning to play their part.
The pub and hotel in Wiveliscombe, near Taunton in Somerset - now representing community pubs in our Sell More, Save More project - is moving ahead with plans to fully integrate its dining room with the bar, and move the main serving area.
Licensees Simon Tanner and Carlos Alfaro are now talking to the category champions about how the move will help to give the outlet more of a 'pubby', community feel.
It was a situation that our rural pub, the Hack & Spade, went through earlier in the project - and one many pubs will be familiar with.Our business development champion Carl May of Catered 4 sums it up. "Like many licensed premises the White Hart suffers from a mixed identity and comes across as confusing to prospective customers," he says.
Discussions have been ongoing with Vintage Contracts, our furniture champion, and refurbishment specialist Mercury as to how the pubby feel can be achieved.
Entertainment will also play a key role in placing the pub at the heart of the local community.
Our entertainment champion Mediatheme has begun advising Simon and Carlos on how they can best make use of the skittles alley situated to the rear of the pub, and widen its use for more entertainment and themed evenings.
"I'm absolutely 100 per cent convinced that if we get it right people will love the facility," says Simon.
Dealing with the competition
Perfecting the entertainment offer will also help differentiate the pub from the competition - including the pub directly over the road, the Bear, which was recently named Somerset CAMRA Pub of the Year.
"The Bear and the Courtyard [the other pub in the town] are our competition, and we're all essentially offering the same thing - a pub with food," he says. "The idea of having entertainment - putting on race nights and other events - is absolutely right. It's an awkward space so Mediatheme's input will be really useful."
Among the events that Simon is looking forward to putting on in the space are karaoke and casino nights - while he is also particularly keen to develop a James Bond evening.
Carl May is looking forward to helping the pub get its offer just right.
"I will help support Carlos and Simon with advice and marketing and look forward to planning and organising the relaunch night, hopefully in November," he says. "Plans are already in place to try and match the success of our previous two relaunches so watch this space!"
Following installation of the Brulines brand quality monitoring system, Simon and Carlos have each received training in how to make best use of the equipment.
The pair have been issued with access details to view their data on the Brulines secure website, and as the pub continues to develop the impact upon the draught beer will be continually monitored.
"It's early days but I can really see the value of the product - if it does what they say it will cut my wastage by two to three per cent," says Simon.
"We expect to be alerted to problems, helped with staff training, and to be able to see who is pouring what beer when."
While not looking to compete directly on beer with the award-winning CAMRA pub opposite, the pub is one of the top outlets for local brewer Cotleigh - and the licensees are looking forward to working closely with both InBev and cellar champion Innserve to take the category forward.
The development of the menu is likely to go hand-in-hand with the development of the pub as Brakes discusses the possibility of taking the same menu through the pub and dining area - rather than the separate bar and dining menus which currently exist side by side.
After a successful first meeting, Brakes development chef Mark Irish has highlighted a number of areas where the company can assist Simon and Carlos.
Mark has already sent some ideas and samples to help Carlos update his menus.
"We're going to be trialling some Brakes products on our function menus," says Simon. "One of the other areas Brakes has advised us on is looking at buying locally and getting the local provenance into food. I didn't expect to be getting that sort of advice from Brakes!"
Carl May from Catered 4 adds that creating the right eating experience will help the White Hart increase its non-resident diners.
"A totally redesigned bar will open the ground floor up to drinkers and diners alike and will encourage a more relaxed atmosphere; remember relaxed customers spend more per head!" he says.
Also on the food side, the pub is looking at developing a mobile catering service offering sandwiches and other food to the immediate area.
At the White Hart discussions between Simon and Carlos and their Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) representatives should soon mean a range of soft drinks for adults and children that will complement the food bias of the pub.
This could well mean the introduction of Peartiser and Capri-Sun.
"This food-led venue is looking to increase footfall from it's catchment area through great food, and an improved look," says Pete Johnson, shopper marketing manager - social occasions for CCE.
"The food focus will undoubtedly mean a relatively high profit opportunity from soft drinks.
"The introduction of a larger soft drink range plus a dedicated cooler to put them in will help convert the non-alcoholic opportunity into a big result.
"There's little business sense investing in attractive new lines like Peartiser or Capri-Sun then hiding them at the bottom of the beer fridge and leaving them off the menu."
Once the new work goes ahead at the White Hart a new cooler will be crucial to the development - while point-of-sale material including A-boards, chrome ice buckets and six umbrellas for a new garden area will also benefit the pub, helping to communicate the fact that it is serious about soft drinks.