The Ings: defying the downturns

By Tony Halstead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pub Public house Cask ale West yorkshire

The Ings: 100% wet business
The Ings: 100% wet business
Joe Moran tells Tony Halstead how the Ings in Guiseley, West Yorkshire survived two recessions with good beer, real fires and community spirit.

Joe Moran, who runs the Ings in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, as a 100% wet business with wife Irene, tells Tony Halstead how he survived two recessions with a recipe of good beer, real fires and community spirit.

How we got here

In 1999 I worked as purchasing manager for pram manufacturer Silver Cross in Guiseley, and Irene was a hairdresser. When the pram firm closed down, it left us at a careers crossroads. Irene had always wanted to run a pub and, when we heard the Ings might be available, we started to think seriously about entering the trade. Luckily, I knew someone who worked for the pub's owner, which was then Allied Domecq, and he helped us prepare an application to lease the business.

Much to our surprise we were successful and quickly accepted. Back then, there was more competition to take pubs and the Ings was an attractive proposition, although, as a managed house, it was in need of a lift. We took over in the same week that Punch officially acquired Allied Domecq.

The pub

The Ings sits on the outskirts of Guiseley at the top of the town alongside a housing estate, so there were plenty of homes to draw custom from. The pub was built in the 1930s, replacing an existing outlet on the same site, and was primarily there to serve residents from the new houses (built at roughly the same time). But we also have open countryside on three sides, including Menston Moor, which houses Leeds Bradford Airport half a mile away. There were plenty of other pubs in the vicinity but we were always confident we could make it work.

What we found

We started off running the business we had inherited in much the same way [as it was run before] but we ironed out some of the worst problems, including customer service. We went on a training course and I also spent time at a friend's pub so I could get to know trade life first hand.

Although I would not say we were perfect, we had far more preparation than a lot of people entering the trade at that time. We retained the food service but very soon found we were up against things. The country was in the middle of a recession and other factories in the area were beginning to close their doors. Daytime food trade almost evaporated and, in any case, bosses were by then beginning to take a dim view of staff drinking at lunchtimes. It meant the food had to go.

Our strategy

We became a wet-only business and devised a strategy designed to make the most of beer and drinks sales. Cask ales are now the cornerstone of our business, which has meant a lot of time and investment in the cellar and in training our barstaff.

We have taken the Ings back to what traditional pubs used to be, which means good beer, real fires, no children and no loud music deafening people trying to have a conversation.

We try to pass on our enthusiasm to the staff. You can give staff any amount of training, but if their hearts are not in the job it soon shows.

We encourage them to talk to customers and try to involve them in the business as much as possible. By doing that we hope our regulars will see the Ings very much as their pub. We also know regulars want to see the landlord and landlady behind the bar so we try to make sure we are as visible as possible.

Being 100% wet means we do not carry a lot of staff. We have only five part-timers, which keeps our wages overheads down.

We have made a conscious decision to throw ourselves into the local community, and get involved in as many local events as possible. We bring the community into the pub with regular events and charity fund-raising nights. If you are running a beer-led community local, your reg-ulars are vital so you have to make them feel wanted.

We have also worked hard to encourage single females to come into the pub by themselves by offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It was hard work at first, but it has now paid off.

Our beer

We have five cask ales on at all times, one of which is a rotating guest. We have rigorous cellar and line-cleaning procedures and we train all our staff to an extremely high standard. If I see one of them pulling a pint the wrong way I go back to the drawing board with them. A wet-trade pub has to offer top quality and we work all the time to maintain the best standards. We were delighted last year when the Ings was awarded a five-star hygiene rating by Leeds City Council.

Our best-selling cask is Tetley's Bitter followed by Timothy Taylor's Landlord. The Ings is an old Tetley house and, despite all the changes at the brewery, it remains the number one choice for many drinkers around here. Currently cask-ale sales account for 60% of all draught volumes, so you can see how important this is for the pub.

Our new ideas

Although we do not serve food in the normal sense we have developed a policy of offering free snacks to customers around teatime each evening. This has proved tremendously popular, particularly during the Friday 'early doors' shift when we are very busy indeed.

It costs very little to put on and a small outlay has managed to yield a tremendous amount of benefits from our regulars. If a group of lads are watching a soccer or rugby match on TV, for instance, we might send round a few pizzas at half-time to help them soak up the beer. It costs relatively little, but generates such a lot of goodwill.

We have also invested £1,500 in a garden marquee, which gives us an added dimension in the summer. We encourage people to hold birthday parties, christenings etc, and sometimes provide a chef to cook the food they have brought, which is normally a barbecue. A few good marquee events does wonders to the weekly take.

Our flower power

We have always believed first im-pressions are vital so a feature of the Ings is our external summer flower display, which has become the talk of the neighbourhood over the years. We are winners of both the Guiseley in Bloom and the Leeds in Bloom Summer Competition. Maintenance is hard work but it's worth the effort.

The outward appearance of a pub is often a good guide to the standards you will find inside and we like to think our flower displays have encouraged a lot of people to give

us a try.

Recession-busting tips

We traded through one recession soon after arriving at the Ings so were ready for anything the current downturn had to throw at us. Tips for keeping your heads above water include:

• No price cuts, no happy hours

• Trade to your strengths and capitalise on the things that you are good at

• Stick to your guns in everything you do

• Maintain quality at all costs

• Work out any deal or promotion carefully

• Concentrate on customer value, such as free teatime snacks

Facts 'n' stats

The pub: The Ings, Ings Lane, Guiseley, West Yorkshire

Owner: Punch Taverns

Lessees: Joe and Irene Moran

Tenure: 15-year lease (three years remaining)

Terms: Full beer tie. Free on wines, minerals

Turnover: £318,000

Beer GP: 51%

Percentage of staff wages to turnover: 12%

Ale: Tetley's £2.75

Lager: Stella Artois £3

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