Key Facts about The Grafton
Great British Pub Awards 2014 category winner: Best Partnership Pub (Enterprise Inns)
Licensees: Joel Czopor and Susie Clarke
Why they won:
A diverse, modern business that remains true to the ideals of a traditional pub — the Grafton has it all going on.The licensees of this proper cornerstone pub that sits in the heart of Kentish Town and Camden’s community leave no stone unturned in their quest for business building ideas and GP improvement. So much of what is on offer at the Grafton is just what a great pub should be, but that is to underplay what makes it special.
The product range, the service standards and the use of under-utilised pub space has opened up new possibilities for this pub that have transformed its prospects. The upstairs bar and boardroom at this Enterprise lease have opened up new revenue streams and new customer bases, while the franchise food offer has given regulars the chance to try new things on a regular basis.
Sales are up 40% since the installation of an impressive new all-weather roof terrace (see video), which has full-length retractable Victorian awnings and multiple heat lamps so it can be used all year. A fantastic range of events and promotions have been devised by licensees Susie Clarke and Joel Czopor, which helps stimulate business across all days and day parts.
The pub won Best Entertainment Pub 2013 in last year’s awards and among events the site hosts regularly are Wiff Waff Wednesdays, open mic nights, quiz nights, clothing swaps, sing-along Sundays, and are also hosting a reggae choir.
The pub wears its community credentials well, and delivers a wide range of occasions for its customer base, bringing something new to the area. Susie and Joel are not fazed by strong local competition, but have worked within that environment to help create a local enclave of excellent retail establishments.
A proactive approach to social media activity is paying off, as well as more old-school connections with local groups and businesses.
This pub is a quality establishment from the décor to the fixtures and fittings and the excellent service standards on display. Lovely touches abound in all corners of the pub — none of which have been expensive, but all of which are effective. The Grafton has a great drinks offer, with eight hand pumps rotating award-winning ales, local craft beers on tap and in bottles, ciders and wines and Prosecco on tap. There is a strong sense of self-sufficiency in evidence, though the couple are clearly taking advantage of everything on offer from their pubco too. Susie and Joel have complementary skills and strengths, which make them a powerful partnership.
The kitchen franchise agreements have kept customers interested in a regularly changing menu, and while this in itself hasn’t contributed to the top line, the food offer has almost doubled the pub’s wet take. A new wholly owned sharing food offer is being launched, so the pub can fully take advantage of this additional revenue stream. Susie has created an induction and ongoing training handbook covering all the basics, and guiding each employee’s progression through the ranks under the catchline “make their day”.
Nothing is left to chance, and an atmosphere of trust has been developed with 20 loyal staff more than capable of running the pub if Susie and Joel aren’t there, and they ensure employees’ individual talents are put to use. Alongside the exciting in-house food projects and multiple site ambitions, there are plans underway to take advantage of breakfast and mid-morning trading opportunities with local student, businesses and young families nearby.
The pair are now ready to take on a second site, with good controls across the business and a trusted team to allow them scope to expand when the right opportunity arises. They have bigger plans, in which they want to develop an estate of leased “urban community pubs” before acquiring a freehold property.
Rob Willock, group editor of the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, said: “Susie, Joel and the team at the Grafton thoroughly deserve the title of Sky Great British Pub of the Year 2014.
“The pub is a quality establishment, from the décor to the fixtures and fittings, and the excellent service standards on display. It wears its community credentials with pride, and delivers a wide range of occasions for its customer base, each bringing something new to the area.
“The Great British Pub Awards celebrate the cream of the crop in the pub trade, and the winners should serve as an inspiration to pubs throughout the country.”