My Pub

My Pub - The Ring O' Bells

By Alison Baker

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Locally sourced food Great british pub Trust inns Pizza Public house A great way to care

Food offering from the Ring O'Bells in Christleton, Cheshire
Food offering from the Ring O'Bells in Christleton, Cheshire
From a picnic lawn to farmers’ markets, Trust Inns lessee Ian Wade tells Alison Baker how he has transformed his Cheshire pub, the Ring O’ Bells in Christleton, into a family-friendly haven

How I got here

I left Liverpool Polytechnic in 1991 and opened my first business — a dance music record shop. Another store followed and party promotions ran alongside. The natural progression was to open a venue and in 1995 my partners and I opened Circo, Birmingham’s first late licensed bar. In 1999 we also opened a lounge bar and restaurant, Fifty Two Degrees North, also in Birmingham.

We sold both bars in 2002 and I continued working with Adam Johnson on a project called Modern British Taverns, until spring 2009, opening five pubs in suburban locations. Adam continues to run the Plough in Harborne, Birmingham, and I concentrated on the Ring O’ Bells. I love the job and take great pride in being part of bringing enjoyment and good times to people. The sense of pride and satisfaction after a great service is huge!

Building our business

I took over the lease to the pub in 2008. It’s in a great area — the village has been Cheshire’s Best Kept a few times — but the pub was under-performing, generating around £3,000 gross per week with a 10% dry take of poor quality, freezer-to-fryer food. We ran the business as it was for six months before embarking on a full refurb, inside and out, in partnership with Trust Inns. We wanted to offer a comfortable, quality, child-friendly pub offering good, locally sourced food. We opened up the pub inside and completely refurbished the interior to remain in keeping with the local area but with a contemporary feel. Outside, we created an adult dining terrace and a family picnic lawn and children’s play area.

The refurbishment cost around £330,000 and the pub was closed for two months. During that time we hosted the bar at the local school’s summer fair, sponsored the local cricket and football teams and generally made ourselves known in the area. We launched flyer and local magazine advertising campaigns, investing quite heavily in advertising for the first two years. Initially, takings were between £8,000 and £10,000 per week gross. We now take around £25,000 per week gross. Awards we have won in recent years include Cheshire Life​’s Dining Pub of the Year in 2013 and becoming a finalist in this year’s Great British Pub Awards.

Business philosophy

Everything we do in the business is based on what we enjoy ourselves. In the early days, I ran bars as that’s where we would socialise. Now, as a family man, I prefer to visit a decent pub where the kids are comfortable and where there is good, locally sourced food. That’s what we are trying to achieve here. We want to welcome kids rather than tolerate them.

Bar Talk

We have a bespoke wine list from Enotria starting with our house wine at £4.10 a glass and £15.95 a bottle. Our best sellers are the mid-range Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. We also offer seasonal ‘Ring O’ Bells loves…’ wines, providing guests with the opportunity to try some of the season’s better and more unusual varieties, and hold 10 wine tastings a year, to support our list, which are very well attended.

We are also well known locally for our cask ales and are Cask Marque accredited. We always have four guest ales on and are looking to extend to five or six this year. As well as our own Sozzled Swan, brewed locally by Spitting Feathers brewery, our best sellers include Weetwood ales, Tatton ales and those from Big Hand Brewing Co.


We have really good relationships with all our suppliers but Andy, our head chef, has worked particularly closely with our main butcher, David Joinson, and our baker, Wallis the Bakers — both from Chester — for our recent menu launch. David is making fresh chorizo for our pizzas and smoke-curing chickens for our chicken in a basket, while Nigel Wallis is making bespoke glazed brioche buns for our burgers, along with other artisan and traditional products.

Serving suggestions

All of our sandwiches can be ordered with gluten-free bread and we also offer some gluten-free starters. Our burgers can be served naked or half- naked, as well as gluten-free, while our egg supplier ensures that all our eggs for frying and baking are double yolkers, creating a real talking point.

Farmers’ market

We started using half of our car park as a monthly farmers’ market, a few years ago, as a way of getting customers through the door. Initially the market was run independently, but we took over the running of it just over a year ago. We try to be as true to a farmers’ market as possible, encouraging local suppliers and businesses.

The market is held on the second Saturday of every month, attracting around 20 stall holders and between 200 and 300 customers each time. We are open from 9am for teas, coffees, cakes and pastries and also run a bacon buttie barbecue outside.

Our biggest mistake

Trying to finance through cash-flow. In the early days we didn’t have a choice and if we hadn’t maxed out our credit cards, to get the business up and running, we wouldn’t be here today. However, financing this way always catches up with you and these days we won’t enter into a project unless we already have the finances in place.

Future plans

Medium term, we would like to create some boutique B&B rooms above the pub. I am also working on a new project, with a partner, to open a Neapolitan pizza restaurant, similar in concept to the Pizza East brand, in Chester city centre. The restaurant will serve traditional pizzas, but in a contemporary style, and is due to open in November.

On the menu

Menu philosophy: Simple, fresh and as local as possible.

Best-selling dishes

Starter:​ Honey and cider glazed chicken skewers with a mustard dip (£6.25)

Mains:​ Chargrilled tuna steak over ratatouille (£19.50); Bells BBQ burger — chargrilled chicken, BBQ pulled pork, mozzarella and fresh salsa in a brioche bun (£12.95)

Dessert:​ Elderflower panna cotta with Haughton honey and toasted nuts (£6.25).

Our pizzas

We make all of our hand-stretched, stone-baked pizzas from scratch. While we provide fantastic value, including our Wednesday 2-4-1 offer, we also provide a great product and don’t scrimp on the quality or freshness of the ingredients, keeping sourcing as local as possible. We run an annual design-a-pizza contest, for local school children, incorporating the winning entry into our pizza menu. The competition has been successfully running for a number of years and is a great way to raise awareness of the pub and our pizza offering as well as to develop relationships with local schools and families.

Best ideas

Built in 2012, our extension, The Glasshouse, was another joint project with Trust Inns. Costing £500,000, it has taken the business to another level, enabling us to cater for more private functions as well as providing additional dining space. Fully retractable doors make it an ideal inside/outside space, which has boosted turnover amazingly, with sales up by 23% year on year.

Pub facts


Twitter:​ @ringobellsch3

Tenure:​ Lease with Trust Inns

Wet:dry split:​ 50:50

Staff:​ 20 full-time; 20 part-time

Head chef:​ Andrew King

Covers:​ Inside: 150 Outside: 150

Meals per week:​ In excess
of 1,300

Food GP:​ 70%

Average food spend
per head:​ £19


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