MA500 member reveals why she took on a second site

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

In staff we trust: Diane Irving (centre) with team members
In staff we trust: Diane Irving (centre) with team members
Running more than one site can be a little daunting but one business owner reveals why she decided to become a multiple operator.

MA500 club is open to operators who run two or more sites, and one licensee who recently joined the club – Diane Irving – took on her second site in November 2017.

The Morning Advertiser​ speaks with Irving about her business and how she has made the leap from running one site to having two.

What made you decide to take on your first site?

My husband and I previously pursued successful and separate careers outside of the hospitality industry but running a pub was always something in the back of my mind.

We reached a certain age where we decided if we weren’t going to do it now, we would never do it.

So three years ago, we took the plunge and took on the White Mare at Beckermet, Cumbria, which is a pub with eight letting rooms and a restaurant.

This was a huge learning curve because we had never run any kind of hospitality business before. We had to learn about managing the rooms as well as the restaurant, the food and the bar.

Why did you decide to expand to a second site?

Application of strict laws

Diane Irving’s second site – the Crown in Stanwix – was part of the Government’s State Management Scheme, which saw the Government take ownership and running of Carlisle’s 119 pubs and off-licences.

Many sites were closed and those that remained became managed by civil servants and were governed by strict laws.

The scheme not only affected local drinking habits but British society at large.

Information from The State Management Story

We enjoyed taking on the White Mare so much that we took on the Crown in Stanwix, also in Cumbria, in November.

How is the Crown different to the White Mare?

The White Mare is more of a coaching inn. The Crown is a city pub, on the outskirts of Carlisle. It has a good history to it because it was one of the pubs built as part of the Government’s State Management Scheme, which was introduced in Carlisle and the surrounding area as an attempt by the Government to control the drinking habits of the people in the area and reduce drunkenness during World War One.

This means the pub has a lot of historic features too.

How do you find juggling the two sites, especially as there are more than 40 miles between them?

The thing about managing two pubs is down to two things. One is getting a really good team and ensuring they are well trained, meaning you have people you can really trust.

But the big thing is having systems in place. Having something that works in both pubs so I know, whichever one I am in, I know what is happening in the other one.

We have similar systems in both sites including for the ordering, line cleaning, staff, managing rotas, pay roll, etc.

What challenges does this bring?

Double delight

Diane Irving took on the the White Mare, Beckermet, in Cumbria, tenancy for the pub with Star Pubs & Bars three years go and went on to win Best Turnaround Pub at the Great British Pub Awards in 2016.

The pub was also a finalist for Best Inn at the 2017 awards.

The Crown, in Stanwix, is Irving’s second pub, which is also a tenancy but with Greene King. She renovated it in November 2017 before opening the doors in December.

Managing the time between the two is hard. We are lucky because the two pubs are so different and the running of them is very uniform.

The White Mare is in a village so it is the kind of place where it is important to have a face. People come in and expect to see the landlady or landlord, if not all the time, at least the majority of the time.

With that in mind, we knew that was something we had to maintain and manage people’s expectations of us being here. But, with taking on the second pub, we chose somewhere that was quite different so people are still happy to see you but it isn’t as important because it was a different kind of pub.

Also when we launched the Crown, we chose a general manager who is quite well-known in the area so she has become an important part, the face if you like, in that pub.

The difficult part is managing those two things and ensuring you aren’t being disloyal to one pub or the other.

Have you got any future plans to expand further?

We are always looking. We have learned to make sure we get the location right and get the pub that fits properly in the model we have.

Hopefully, we are going to take on one or two pubs over the next couple of years but the optimum we are looking for is five to six in total.

We would probably stay in Cumbria but my eldest daughter could be interested in taking a site on and managing it for us.

If she did, there’s no reason to say it would have to be in Cumbria. She might look further afield because she is based near Manchester.

Are you in the club?

The MA500 business club is open to multi-site operators and runs three nationwide events a year that include business-focused presentations from top experts and owner-operators.

Each event is followed by an evening's networking study tour of new and exciting venues in the area.

To register your interest in attending the next MA500 meeting in Cardiff on 24 May, email enpury.jneq@jeoz.pbz​ 

Related topics MA Leaders Club

Related news

Show more