Tripling trade turnover

By Sheila McWattie

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lincolnshire

Tripling trade turnover: The Fox & Hounds, Sevenoaks, Kent
Tripling trade turnover: The Fox & Hounds, Sevenoaks, Kent
Licensee Jeff Veal talks to Sheila McWattie about being dog friendly, quiz and curry nights and loyalty cards at the Fox & Hounds in Sevenoaks,...

Licensee Jeff Veal talks to Sheila McWattie about being dog friendly, quiz and curry nights and loyalty cards at the Fox & Hounds in Sevenoaks, Kent.

How we got here

My wife, Fran, and I took over the Fox & Hounds in 2008. Fran spent several years working in human resources in the City before working in hotels and catering, and I spent my early career working in estate agencies and marketing.

We met when she was assistant manager of a hotel where I took on the role of banqueting manager.

This is a destination food-led rural pub in the North Downs in Kent, 26 miles outside London.

There are approximately 400 homes in the locality. Fran normally runs the front-of-house. I run the kitchen and particularly enjoy creating dishes for our specials board.

The pub is a free-of-tie leasehold with a private landlord. Since we purchased the lease we have increased turnover by approximately 350%.

Achieving business growth

We always offer our customers a warm welcome, maintain the highest standards of hygiene across the business and have clear ideas about how our staff should present themselves and our products. We advertise extensively locally, maintain a big internet presence and run regular events to attract repeat trade.

Business philosophy

Give customers an enjoyable experience and they will return and recommend the pub.

Best piece of business advice ever given

Treat customers as you'd like to be treated: meet, greet and remember to thank them when they leave.

Standing out from the competition

We offer a friendly environment in a fantastic rural location. There's a warm welcome for adults, children and dogs, together with a good choice of beverages and delicious home-cooked food with fresh produce to suit all tastes.

Customers can get a real local feel from our products: we use two local breweries — Tonbridge, and Goachers Maidstone Ales, which produces our own ale, Knatts Valley Fox.

Recommended business websites — it provides customer reviews, directions and a link to the pub's website — advertises pubs where dogs are welcome — good information about pubs

Three recommended suppliers

Lazy Lobster Fish Co in Detling, near Maidstone, Kent, for fresh meat and fish. Call 01622 739209.

Cherry Ripe, a local fruit and vegetable supplier in Orpington, Kent. Call 01959 523247.

NFC Foodservice in Sandwich, Kent, for groceries. Call 01304 620001 or go to

Bar talk

Our best-selling real ales are Fuller's London Pride and our own special blended ale, Knatts Valley Fox, brewed by Goachers.

Our best-selling wine is Pinot Grigio, while the best-selling spirit is vodka. Our curry night increases sales because a beer or small wine is part of the deal.


We focus on pub classics at the Fox & Hounds such as cod fillet with home-made beer batter, Lincolnshire sausages & mash with rich onion gravy and steak & Merlot pie with hand-cut chips.

Potted starters are a speciality here: our potted prawns, potted chicken liver pâté and potted salmon pâté are all home-made and our home-cut chips are hugely successful.

Our Fry Day Night fish offer includes cod fillet in beer batter, scampi, baked/grilled trout, pan-fried sea bass, hand-dived sea scallops, squid and sardines.

Menu philosophy

The menu changes seasonally, with daily specials.

Best new dish

Whole baby chicken (13oz) roasted and served with home-made ground pork, pear

& chestnut stuffing on our Sunday roast menu.

Best-selling dishes

Starters​: Whitebait with home-made tartare sauce (£4.95); tempura prawns with home-made Marie Rose sauce (£5.45); and smoked salmon & prawn salad (£6.95).

Mains​: lambs' liver & bacon with rich onion gravy (£9.75); cod fillet in home-made beer batter with hand-cut chips & peas (£9.25); and braised lamb shank in red wine & mint gravy (£9.95).

Desserts​: apple & blackberry crumble; treacle & butterscotch pudding; and apple & caramel pancake stack (all £3.95).

Most profitable dishes

Lincolnshire sausage & mash (£8.25) and braised lamb

shank (£9.95).

Best food promotion

Our Thursday quiz & curry night has been a regular event for many years now, and a great number of 'quizzers' have been attending it for almost as long.

The food deal is a choice of three home-made curries, served with poppadoms, chutneys and naan bread, plus a pint of your favourite beer, a small glass of wine or a soft drink, for £7.50. We also offer our normal menu for the less adventurous.

The quiz, which is prepared and delivered by one of our regular customers, costs £2 per person with cash prizes for the winning team, and includes a beer round to really test customers' general knowledge.

Five best ideas

•Loyalty card: Punters collect nine stamps to claim their free two-course meal for two. Stamps can be collected when two people dine in the evening. It has lifted evening turnover by 20%.

•Google discounts: Customers can print off tokens for discounts and special deals from offers attached to Google Maps.

•Local advertising: In conjunction with specific brands we are particularly targeting local families who enjoy bringing their children along to play in the garden here.

•Food and drink takeaway: We do this on weekday evenings with a bottle of house wine or a two-pint carton of a customer's favourite beer, with discounts.

•Being a dog-friendly pub: This, combined with our family-friendly approach, has boosted our customer base by 25% and is a must for our rural location.


Service secrets

We always offer a warm welcome as customers come through the door and make sure that we thank them and wish them a good day when they leave. We aim to ensure that no-one waits at the bar to be served and to serve food within a maximum of 20 minutes following an order. We train barstaff to smile and greet customers and request that

our waiting staff smile as they deliver meals.

One idea that didn't work out

We advertised in a local branch of a major supermarket where business cards are displayed for customers, and offered a 25% food discount. In 18 months only two customers have produced them — it proved costly.

Credit check

Fran covering the lunchtime shifts during the week and me running the kitchen in the evenings and at weekends

has saved in terms of paying salaries and introduced a lot more enthusiasm and motivation in the kitchen environment.

Successful marketing and PR ideas

Success of our loyalty card means evening trade has increased by 20% over the week. We have also produced a free leaflet with four circular walks starting and ending at the pub, which is a very simple idea that has increased our lunchtime trade by at least 20%. We also keep a database of customers' birthdays and send a voucher for a free meal when at least two people dine at one of the party's birthday celebration.

Staff motivation

We praise all our staff when they do a good job and make them feel good about themselves. As a relatively small pub with a small team, we aim for a friendly, family atmosphere and for our workforce to enjoy working with us.


Licensees: Jeff & Fran Veal

Tenure: Free-of-tie lease, private landlord


Wet:dry split: 60:40

GP food: 73%

GP drink: 65%

Total covers: 65 inside; 100 outside

Average covers per week: 400

Average spend per head: £17

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