Ploughing their own furrow

Related tags Business Pub Franchising

Jon and Paula Briscoe at the Jolly Farmers, in Buckland, Surrey, have made a success of a business incorporating a pub, food offer and deli. Nigel...

Jon and Paula Briscoe at the Jolly Farmers, in Buckland, Surrey, have made a success of a business incorporating a pub, food offer and deli. Nigel Huddleston reports

How I got here

I did a degree in hospitality management at Leeds University, which is where I met wife, Paula, who was on the same course. We took our own corporate routes - Paula worked for Brakes and Costa, and I was at Coca-Cola, Bass Taverns, All Bar One and Tiger Tiger. We got on the housing ladder and that gave us the capital to put us in the position to start our own business.

In 2002, we took one of the first franchises from Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the Leg of Mutton & Cauliflower in Ashtead, Surrey, which we sold last year. We took on a second site in 2005 - the Wise Old Owl just outside Horsham in West Sussex - and soon after that the opportunity came up here, and we leapt at it. It meant we bought two pubs within a couple of months.

Why I'm a franchisee

It's not necessarily a traditional franchise model, in that we're not branded in any way. The M&B model catches sites that won't fall into the brands that they have, but that they don't want to sell. We lease the business and pay a turnover-based fee on top. In return, we get support on things like health and safety, licensing, back-of-house systems, and maintenance, plus we get preferential prices with a number of suppliers.

It's very much a supported agreement. They have advisors who come and suggest business ideas, and who have their eyes and ears open in a much wider area than we do as operators.

We learn best practice and established methods that have worked in the trade, and they allow us to concentrate on driving the business forward. It's great having an older brother there to help guide you through.

We have a tremendous level of control. The design you see, the prices we sell at and the marketing we do - the whole concept - is down to us. We are tied on beers, wines and spirits, but we have an agreement that allows us to buy an agreed range of named local beers, ciders and wines that are vital to the positioning of our business.

My deli/farm shop

We recognised there was great potential in the site. We came up with the name Food Emporium to encompass a bar, restaurant and deli. Pretty much everything is made in the locality, by small independent people, or comes from independent suppliers.

We spent weeks working out exactly how we could get it to integrate, so it didn't look like a spare part on the side of an existing business. We worked hard to make sure the materials flowed through into the rest of the pub.

We visualised the customer flow through the building, so it wasn't interfering with the core business of the restaurant.

The whole concept is to create interest in a sector that has a tremendous number of competitors and brands. We can be there in the middle of them and say we've got more reasons for people to visit.

You can't sit there with the level of decline there is in the industry and not try to respond to it. Innovation and diversification is a clear route for people to see where they can add value to the business.

Some of the first transactions were hilarious. We were elated to see people sitting with a glass of wine, a pint of beer and a cauliflower.

Benefits of diversity

Some people use the pub as a shop and so we open from 9am for coffees and teas; it opens the whole thing up to a new perspective.

A big issue with farm shops is the shelf life of the product, which is where the kitchens come in. We have a very tight rotation, and the minute it starts getting anywhere near its date it's whisked off to the kitchens and comes back out on the menu in a special.

We don't yet have specific staff for the deli. We treat it as an integrated operation, so

everyone is trained in how to price, how to weigh and how to rotate stock. We've seen the sales building on the deli side and, heading towards Christmas, we'll be taking someone on to drive it on a day-to-day basis.

We don't lose any pub trade because of it. People who are going to eat at home are going to eat at home. People who are going to go out will choose where they want to go. It's not a case of people going into the pub, seeing a shop and deciding to eat at home instead. A lot of the goods we have in the shop are on the menu too, and people who are dining will go through to the shop and buy more to eat at home.

How I market the pub

We have a regular newsletter that goes out to almost 3,000 people we have on the database. They're all customers who have come in and eaten with us. They sign a form and give us marks for service and the quality of the environment, and we capture the data that way.

The newsletter always has a voucher for the bar or coffee and cakes side, one for the deli side and one for the restaurant side - and there might be a voucher for something we're promoting through one of our suppliers.

A lot of our suppliers sell products at farmers' markets, which can sometimes be just once a month. But as we're selling their product day to day we try to encourage them, when they do go to a market, to tell people where they can get their products for the rest of the time, and to hand out our cards or fliers.

We advertise in selected local magazines. We've just supported the launch of a glossy called Eat Sussex, which was great, and we have good relationships with all the smaller magazines that go out locally.

We haven't tended to go into newspapers, but there is a budget for it, and it's an opportunity we might use to drive the local focus of the whole business as a next step. We're also going to focus on some legwork, taking menus out to businesses to introduce ourselves for promotions like the Christmas menu.

My Pub

Tenure: Leasehold (franchise)

Turnover 2006/7: £900,000

Wet:dry:deli split: 27:63:10

Average restaurant spend per head: £22

GP on pub food: 65%

GP on drinks: 65%

GP on deli: 30%

Staff: 22

Awards: Finalist in British Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year 2007 (against all types of business franchise). Regional finalist in the Countryside Alliance Best Rural Retailer 2006 awards.

Related topics Other operators

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more