Teaching a pig some new tricks

By Brendan Padfield

- Last updated on GMT

Career change: 'there is simply nothing better than the buzz of a busy pub,' according to Brendan Padfield of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk
Career change: 'there is simply nothing better than the buzz of a busy pub,' according to Brendan Padfield of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk

Related tags: Beer, Public house, Alcoholic beverage, Restaurant

After spending 33 years as a solicitor, Brendan Padfield – now owner of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk - had a dramatic career change and became a publican.

My family thought I had lost the plot (again). Indeed, many of customers look utterly bewildered when they hear about my former life. So, five years on, what have been the high and lows?

The lows

1 -​ Twelve weeks after opening, we suffered a catastrophic fire (forcing a six-month closure). As a lawyer, I had been well used to dealing with tragedy, but I was devastated and struggled to deal with the aftermath. Eventually, however, with support of an amazing team, we were able to get back on our trotters. Life is just full of challenges.

2 -​ Nothing quite prepared me for the amount of dishonesty I have encountered in hospitality. I had, of course, been around the block but, in hindsight, I was naive. I was surprised about how common it can be for a team member to steal not only from their employer but also their team-mates. Sadly, I have had to dismiss three team members for stealing their colleagues’ tips. I also learned quickly why is it necessary to closely supervise deliveries and was disappointed to discover it is was necessary to test weigh even trusted suppliers’ produce.

3 -​ I am saddened by the ‘something for nothing’ customers who are rude to hard-working team members and make fraudulent demands, threatening the ubiquitous ‘s***advisor’ (as The Sunday Times ​food critic so aptly calls it). When I started out, TripAdvisor sometimes used to make me incandescent with rage but now, even older and maybe a little wiser, I have developed a thicker skin.

4 -​ ‘No Shows’ use to be the bane of my new life. I vividly remember one ‘no show’ customer hectoring me: ‘Listen mate, I book three restaurants most Saturdays and I’ll decide which one I want to eat at in the pub. That is your f***ing problem.’

It isn’t any longer since we have taken cards details for peak reservations.

5 -​ Hospitality recruitment can be frustrating. We receive many applications from individuals who cannot be bothered to check our location or give any thought how they will get home late on a Saturday. I have been disappointed by the number of chefs who fail to arrive for an agreed interview/trial without murmur, never mind apology. It has also been interesting to discover that notice periods in hospitality can also be considered optional.

The highs

The highs massively outweigh the lows and are simply too numerous to list.

There is simply nothing better than the buzz of a busy pub, the friendly praise of lovely customers and the smiles of a happy team who know that they are making a difference. I look forward to returning from holiday – and that’s a first. Thus, I feel privileged to work in such a fantastic and dynamic industry.

Everyone should have a career change. I have never been happier.

Related topics: Beer

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