‘We are called a cult for good reason’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Giant Peach plans: the company is bidding to be in the top 10 of best places to work
Giant Peach plans: the company is bidding to be in the top 10 of best places to work

Related tags Peach Peach pub company Public house Beer

Peach Pubs’ Hamish Stoddart has lofty ambitions for the business and is eager to take a bigger bite

Peach Pubs' sites

  • Boulters, Maidenhead, Berkshire
  • The Bear & Ragged Staff , Cumnor, Oxfordshire
  • The James Figg, Thame, Oxfordshire
  • The Thatch, Thame, Oxfordshire
  • The Fleece, Witney, Oxfordshire
  • The Fishes, North Hinksey, Oxfordshire
  • The One Elm, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
  • The Star & Garter, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
  • The Rose & Crown, Warwick, Warwickshire
  • The Almanack, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
  • The High Field, Edgbaston, West Midlands
  • The High Field Studio, Edgbaston, West Midlands
  • The Black Horse, Woburn, Bedfordshire
  • The Swan, Salford, Buckinghamshire
  • The Embankment, Bedford, Bedfordshire
  • The White Horse, Hatching Green, Hertfordshire
  • Brookmans, Hatfi eld, Hertfordshire
  • The Duke of Wellington, East Horsley, Surrey
  • The Chequers, Eversley Cross, Hampshire
  • The Richard Onslow, Cranleigh, Surrey

Peach Pubs was formed in 2002 with the opening of the Rose & Crown in Warwick and an ethos that every town deserves a great pub.

Some 17 years later, the group now has 20 sites in towns and village across the south, with an “undimmed devotion to making life Peachy”.

It prides itself on well-kept beer, a quality steak cooked by a proper chef and a glass of decent wine, served with a kind word and a sense of fun.

Managing director Hamish Stoddart previously told ­The Morning Advertiser​: “­The economics of being a gastropub company is quite hard in that you have got to keep your price point accessible and yet we do strongly believe in keeping our work-life balance in a sensible place for the team.

“Making that all hang together is challenging because you have got the natural headwinds on price points for the guest – in theory, you should be putting the price up.”

He outlined how Peach was trying to achieve this by working together with chefs and teams to become more efficient without working the staff “crazily”.

He described this as a real challenge that was possible but difficult.

Stoddart laid out how the business aims to focus on making sure employees have plenty of opportunities to have a life outside work.

He added: “One of our senior chefs is earning £40,000 with the potential of earning towards £50,000. ­There are very few jobs where, as 30-year-old, you can earn that money. Yes, it is unsociable hours. But there are a lot of people who love it and enjoy it.

“It does start as a minimum wage role but that doesn’t mean a good chef can’t, very quickly, earn very good money.”

Recruitment post-Brexit is a concern for the company, which employs 72 European members of staff, but Stoddart thinks his pubs will be able to cope relatively well in comparison to others in the sector.

He explained: “Many of them [Peach’s European staff members] have got residency rights, etc. To have 72 from a total of 500 staff is not as extreme as some of the inner London pubs or restaurants. I think we will be OK. It will send certainly chef wages up over time, they will steadily increase as the Europeans stop coming or slow.”

­The so-called ‘battle against the sofa’ is a salient issue for Peach but Stoddart said the pubco’s approach was to focus on offering a truly distinct ‘real life experience’ to draw people out of the house.

He said: “We’re saying come for a different experience at the pub – have a real-life experience in terms of chatting. Being together is more important than a screen and a pizza or some noodles.”

Consistently, excellent pub food was the only way to compete against the likes of Deliveroo and UberEats, Stoddart added.

He said: “When you’re competing with eat-ins or delivery-ins or cookery-ins, you have to create an experience, and you do that by having a very, very good team.”


Shedding debt

­The 20-site strong company recently disposed of several sites to reduce its debt and is now slowly looking ahead to future expansion plans.

Stoddart described expansion visions as “steady”, explaining: “We don’t have any one image at the moment. We will carry on looking [ for new sites] but there is nothing we can talk about at the moment.”

Looking ahead to the future, Stoddart wants to continue to grow the business over the coming years, based in the south of the UK.

He said: “[We want to do] more of the same. [Growing] steadily, hopefully one or two pubs a year, not in London, in market towns or villages in the south up to Birmingham.

“We have a nice little map drawn of where we would like to be, all around our centre, which is on the M40 and building a great team of people who really want to work, learn and develop together in Peach.

“We have a mission to be in the top 10 best companies to work for and, over time, we would like to think we might get to being the best gastropub company in England.”

Culture club

Peach was named as one of the three pub companies in the top 50 businesses on ­The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For 2019 ​list, at number 48 but Stoddart aims to be in the top 10.

He added: “Peach has always been extraordinary at getting people to learn and work together, and live together as a team with a culture.

“I am really proud of the culture we have created and sometimes we are called a cult for good reason because we all believe in the same stuff. It’s not difficult stuff to believe in.

“We believe in great food, ethically produced from great makers. We work with some fantastic producers and, when you put that together with a great team of people wanting to learn how to serve guests in a beautiful way and enjoy themselves at the same time, you get a culture then work on it and keep people learning and developing – that is one of my biggest pleasures in life is to see people develop. ­That is what we have created and we will carry on doing that.”

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