'It's about old school hospitality and value for money'...a Shropshire freeholder's advice

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

(l-r) Edward Wood (Wood Brewery), Peter and Cecile Williams and Phil Britton (Holdens Brewery)
(l-r) Edward Wood (Wood Brewery), Peter and Cecile Williams and Phil Britton (Holdens Brewery)

Related tags Cricket

A freeholder who pulled his first pint 50 years ago advises licensees who are in it for the long haul to be adaptable to changing consumer habits and economic climates.

Peter and Cecile Williams started in the trade at the White Horse in Pulverbatch in 1965, and are now freeholders at the Halfway House, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, which offers accommodation and hosts activities.

Peter Williams gave advice in adapting to a ‘hugely’ changing industry.

“You have got huge companies now, I don’t think you can compete with price,” he said.

“It’s all about old school hospitality and value for money, and you’ve got to want to look after people.”

Williams offers activities, such as clay pigeon shooting and quad biking.

When the recession hit, the licensees improvised by opening a caravan park to maintain profit.

“When people were short on money we adapted. That’s what kept us going, if we hadn’t put that site there we wouldn’t have lasted,” he explained.

“It’s essential to look and think of other ideas, people’s habits are always changing.”

The licensees faced a challenge when large supermarkets began selling cheap drinks.

“People didn’t used to do that, they got all their drinks in the pub,” he said.

Williams never considered dropping prices to compete.

“I don’t believe in giveaways, and my father didn’t believe in big discounts,” he said.

Williams, part of a long family history of licensees, said it would ‘devalue’ his business.

“My advice is buy as canny as you can. I do all my own buying. I go around all the local brewers to get the best deals and pass on the good prices to my customers.”

Williams has been buying from south Shropshire brewers Wood’s since the brewery started 35 years ago, and from Holdens in Dudley for 40 years.

“I’ve always believed in the value of keeping a good pint,” he added.

They were one of the first pubs in West Yorkshire to focus on food, serving chicken in the basket, scampi and ham and eggs.

Soon after the licensees joined, The White Horse’s weekly takings rocketed from £50 a week to £1,000 after introducing food.

A keen cricketer in his early years as a licensee, Peter Williams realised there was a gap in the market for accommodation in Pulverbatch ‘by accident’ when a cricket team needed somewhere to stay.

“It was a lot of work, sometimes we had three teams in the hotel,” Mr Williams said.

The couple specialised in hosting large groups, including 57 cricket teams in 1987 alone.

They also hosted the New Zealand Under 21s rugby team.

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