Cygneture dish

By Alison Baker

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Norfolk

The Ingham Swan, Ingham, Norfolk
The Ingham Swan, Ingham, Norfolk
From working with the Roux brothers to becoming chef/patron of Norfolk's Ingham Swan, Daniel Smith tells Alison Baker about his successful journey.

From working with the Roux brothers to becoming chef/patron of Norfolk's Ingham Swan, Daniel Smith tells Alison Baker about his successful journey...

How we got here

I had a successful career working for other people, including the Roux Brothers at Le Gavroche and Galton Blackiston at Morston Hall, before becoming executive chef at Animal Inns site the Wildebeest Arms in Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk.

After 10 years there, marriage and two children I decided to start my own venture, so I formed Avian Inns with my business partner Gregory Adjemian, an IT specialist.

Our aim was to achieve a portfolio of two to three businesses and the Ingham Swan appealed to us because of its location and the low start-up costs involved.

We liked the building, which dates back to the 14th century, and its lay-out, so we focused on refurbishing the toilets and foyer, laying new flooring in the bar area and redecorating and stripping back the restaurant, including new tables and chairs. The total cost of £50,000 worked well for us as it didn't tie up too much capital in a building that isn't ours.

The pub is situated in the quaint village of Ingham, which is mainly residential. We're 15 miles from Norwich, three miles from the coast and on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.

Achieving business growth

When we took over, the business was very much a pub with food. We decided to refresh things by changing the fundamental style of the offering, making it more of a restaurant with a pub serving real ales, fine wines and eclectic lagers.

We opened in April 2010 and instantly rebranded and renamed the business, changing it from the Swan to the Ingham Swan to indicate its new ownership.

It was a good time to open as we still had the strongest trading months to come. We launched a flyer campaign in Great Yarmouth and Norwich, where most of our customers are based.

We also got in touch with all our previous contacts, the local press, and publishers of all the main guidebooks, to make them aware of the changes.

In promoting the business we focused on my Norfolk roots and my career history as the unique selling point of the pub. We have been very fortunate that Woodforde's has been very accommodating and its promotions have been conducive to what we've wanted to achieve. This has allowed us to increase turnover by three and a half times,

Standing out from the competition

We offer a consistently top-quality standard of food at a mid-range price-point. For example, I only ever roast fillet of beef for our Sunday lunch menu. What we serve is premium.

We are proprietor-run and are featured in the Michelin Guide, Good Pub Guide and Alastair Sawday's Pubs & Inns of England & Wales.

Business philosophy

Give your customers what they want. Make sure that you always offer great value for money and provide something different from your competitors' offerings.

Best piece of business advice ever given

Failure to prepare is preparation to fail — Sir Alex Ferguson.

Three best ideas

• Regular cookery demonstrations.

• Five boutique bedrooms in converted two-storey stable at the rear.

• Menu de jour.

Bar talk

We don't offer the standard fare you'd expect in a rural pub, but aim for more premium brands. So we offer less variety, but the quality is better. We steer clear of standard house brands, offering Absolut, Grey Goose, Belvedere, Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick's and Hennessy Paradis.

Our wine list is reviewed seasonally to complement our menu and we serve 10 by the glass. Real ales come from Woodforde's Brewery and our whisky from the English Whisky Company. The bar opens every day and I do all the drink purchasing.

The future

We are planning to run in-house training programmes, which will heighten the standards of food locally, and are just starting up a two-year apprenticeship in partnership with Yarmouth College.

We have every confidence that this is a good area to trade in, particularly as Marco Pierre White has recently invested in two pubs in the same area. Having worked at Le Gavroche, which has two Michelin stars, and Morston Hall, which achieved one star while I was head chef, I'd dearly love to achieve a Bib Gourmand.

Pub facts

Tenure: Woodforde's Brewery lease

Licensee: Daniel Smith


Wet:dry split: 30:70

GP food: 66%

GP drink: 60%

Total covers: 50 inside; 25 outside

Average weekly covers: 300

Average spend per head: £26


Menu philosophy

We offer modern British cuisine, dedicated to seasonality, serving food that I like to eat and can stand by. I am keen to uphold my Norfolk roots so try to use the finest produce from independent local suppliers wherever possible. We make our own ice creams, bake our own bread twice a day, and serve both lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Sunday. The menu changes twice daily.

Main menu

In addition to our à la carte menu we offer a menu de jour, a moderately priced lunch menu and a Sunday lunch menu. Typical à la carte mains include local rump of lamb with Dijon herb crust, cocotte potatoes, chorizo, baby leeks, bunch of local baby carrots, confit fennel and rich basil jus (£18.95) and pan-fried sea bass fillet with sautéed new potatoes, scallions, local courgettes, Chanterelle mushrooms and red pepper sauce vierge (£17.95).

Best-selling dishes

• Starters: Twice-baked Montgomery Cheddar cheese soufflé (£6.95).

• Mains: Chargrilled fillet of beef with dauphinoise potatoes (£22).

• Desserts: Vanilla crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet & vanilla macaroons (£6.25).

Best food event

We offer a programme of six cookery demonstrations throughout the year. These are held at the pub and consist of an informal demo with tutored notes. Places are limited to 18 per course, with attendees enjoying a three-course lunch with bread, consisting of the dishes that I have demonstrated. The cost per person is £45. I also enjoy getting involved with around eight other demonstrations that are organised at a range of events away from the pub, including the Royal Norfolk Show, Worstead Festival, and the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival.


Service secrets

It is very important to focus on giving customers what they want and exceed their expectations of what they can get for their money.

Credit check

We halved our merchant services costs by changing our supplier and now use Elavon​. We are a tied house, but negotiated hard on as many utilities as we could, resulting in some changes in suppliers and some renegotiated contracts. It was vital to us that there would be no cost-cutting on the quality of the food and drink we offer.

Best marketing & PR ideas

I try to demonstrate at as many local events as possible to raise awareness of the pub and of good food in general, as this is a part of the country that has not traditionally been known for its quality of food.

We also have an advertising and marketing campaign that was set up by one of our wash-ups as part of a college project. Via our data-capture systems we send out emails on a need-to-know basis, usually around major dates in the calendar, as I find that if people receive information too regularly they tend to simply lose interest.

Our website is being changed following receipt of a grant from the North Norfolk Pathfinder Scheme, which aims to help coastal communities and businesses adapt to coastal change. The new-look site will include Twitter, Facebook and a blog, as well as an online booking service for our five bed & breakfast rooms.

Twice a year we distribute 5,000 flyers to local businesses and shops describing the business and outlining our current tariffs and any events or promotions we may be offering.

In January we ran

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