Gerry Price: fight fiction with fiction on rent reviews

By Gerry Price

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Related tags Rent review Public house

Price: concern for industry
Price: concern for industry
Gerry Price, leaseholder of the Inn at West End, Surrey says the hot weather is not so great for him and gives his view on the BII rent review...

Gerry Price, leaseholder of the Inn at West End, Surrey says the hot weather is not so great for him and gives his view on the BII rent review seminar.

Well, what an interesting couple of weeks here in West End. Trade not too bad, though about 6% down on last year. The hot weather is not great for a food pub like ours so I think we have done pretty well.

There have been a couple of promotions to help things along, like a Sancerre tasting lunch and a fresh fish night, both of which were very cost effective and brought in some really good trade. It seems that people need tempting out more than ever now but are prepared to spend, if they feel it worthwhile.

The launch of the new website has been a great success and has lifted the number of visits and bookings made from it which is just as well as the revamp cost around £2500. It is so difficult to know what is worthwhile in the marketing effort, but as I have said before, it is no time for the feint hearted.

I think I should have had a Wimbledon party last week, it seemed that the whole world was watching the tennis and definitely NOT at The Inn. Still, we made up for it in the evening and had quite a few in for the quiz night, most of them eating. Martin our quizmaster sets some really tough questions and he was quite sniffy about the food and drink round that I set. Mind you, I don't blame him. I think I was a bit over refreshed after such a quiet lunch and the sort of question was along the line of

Clue: Various screws may need these behind the bar?

Answer: Mixed Nuts!

Not quite at my intellectual peak at 6pm last night then!

Wood oven

We have seen the completion of our wood burning oven in the garden, since I last wrote. It has turned out so big that I probably needed planning permission and a licence to alter to prevent it triggering a rent review!

It will take a few weeks to dry out fully and a little longer for Lee to work out how best to use it, but our first culinary produce from it was exceedingly good — roasted but slightly smoked lamb kebab, Salmon, Chapati bread and pork escallop, delicious. The garden has also had a makeover since Rob finished the oven.

There didn't seem much point while he had the cement mixer and safety fencing up but as soon as it came down we blitzed it. In truth, I was stung by some customer comments about The Inn looking so scruffy outside that they nearly didn't come in but were glad that they did because the food and service was so good.

In April the exterior looked fab but then take your eye off the ball for a second and bits of grass and chickweed spring up all over the place. We have weeded every inch of garden and car park, trained the vines over the pergola, repositioned the Jasmine and it now all looks tickety boo. The hanging baskets are brill, but take a good hour a day of watering now, but no more negative comments.

It's amazing how your customers tell you so much, in so many ways, about how you are doing. Just listening out and welcoming comments both good and bad is very good business practice and usually results in beneficial improvements, often at no or little cost.​ is also good as they encourage customer reviews as does​ and it is surprising what feedback you get.

Fresh meat

In the fresh meat department, I am pleased to report that our two sows have had 18 piglets between them — 14 and 4 — and all are doing well. They are just two weeks old now and hurtling about the woods like mad things. Well, they are either super energetic, or completely shattered and asleep in a big heap — I know the feeling! They take a bit of looking after as they need attention at least twice per day. I am the morning feeder and my mate Rob looks after them in the evening and they are a great leveller and also time waster. It is easy to lean on the fence with a bit of straw in your mouth for a long time watching them, a great de-stresser really.

Rent review roadshow

On the rent review front I can report an interesting and very useful Bii Rent Review roadshow. Nick Light didn't convince me that Enterprise have changed that much or that their understanding of a rent review was the same as mine but it was a delight to listen to Phil Dixon with his view of how to approach one.

I loved one of the top tips 'treat fiction with fiction' which really is what setting the FMT is all about — the fictitious average landlord with the fictitious average trade in your actual pub. The greatest grey areas seem to me to be the level of costs incurred in running a pub, the non rental of landlord approved tenants improvements which should be disregarded and the level of trade that was down to the exceptional landlord/couple. It was good to listen to other tenants questions and the answers given, to network and meet up with some of the other guys that were on the BII Business Building course I have just done. It was especially useful as I had a rent review meeting just a few days later which, while all currently 'Without Prejudice' , is at least exploring places I never dreamed we would be exploring when contemplating the discussions just six months ago.

If I have one piece of advice about rent reviews, it is to spend as much time as is reasonably possible looking on the web for comparable sites and the rent they are looking for, especially from companies other than your own. It is surprising what is out there and a few examples of private leases without tie and similar to your own pub but with rents a lot lower can take discussions to whole new level.

Divided industry

Finally, I have to say I am deeply saddened by the divisions in our industry and illustrated almost wherever you look in the trade press. The last twenty years have been a disaster for Pubs and for those working in them. How have we got to the stage where youngsters think having a good time is to go out and get bladdered?

How have we allowed our industry to be taken over by money men who do not care about their tenants but treat them like modern day slaves rather than partners serving a pub loving public? How have we allowed alcohol to be sold in supermarkets so cheaply and then drunk in completely unsupervised public places? How have parents brought up a generation to drink so massively to excess? How have the legislators created a framework where all of this happens, regularly, daily on our streets and in our pubs. Use 250ml glasses, you'll sell more wine; use 35ml optics you'll sell more gin, oh and we'll train your staff how to do it; Lets buy up lots of sites and then securitise the rental stream so we can buy loads more. It has turned licensee against pubco, licensee against licensee and government against the whole trade. It hasn't exactly been good for the general public either.

Heavy heart

I have great fun running The Inn @ West End but I have to say that there are occasions where I view the whole industry with a heavy heart. However, when you go into a good pub, it lifts the soul. When you meet licensees who do a great job, they are great company. When I rarely drink the odd unit too many I might break out into song and I love that refrain to all of us:

'Here's to the Landlord, good health to the Barley Mow'


Gerry Price

The Inn @ West End

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