Blind Tiger Inns launched on Friday 13 January 2017. There were 10 leases, nine of which were Star Pubs & Bars and one free-of-tie site.
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These had been operating as part of a larger pubco in which founder and MD Chris Tulloch was a shareholder and he decided to “inject some passion, love and enthusiasm” into these venues. Here’s what he has to say:
Biggest challenge so far?
I thought setting up the business would be the biggest challenge, but it turned out that was relatively simple. Since then we like to challenge ourselves, often with huge pub refurbishments with small budgets and even smaller timescales.
Some of our refurbishments seem impossible with the timescales we give ourselves, but we always make it happen in the nick of time.
Initially, we had loads of opportunities as many of the pubs needed refurbishment, and there was loads to achieve in terms of marketing, standards and fun.
Now that we have done all the easy things, we are looking at ways to continue our growth and are working very hard on exciting and rewarding customer loyalty programmes this year.
What has been the biggest mistake you have made and how have you overcome it?
We say that if you make 10 decisions each day and get half right you are doing very well so there are, of course, a lot of mistakes made.
I’ve probably (OK, definitely) signed some deals where my passion to make the pub work for the community may have disguised the fact that it might not actually generate cash for us. We always find a way to overcome mistakes though.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Hopefully, by March, this will be winning a Publican Award. However, literally every day, we are proud of what we do at Blind Tiger Inns. From being part of a charity walk raising £20,000 to doubling turnover, to taking a closed pub and making it the hub of the community – the list is endless.
Every year, our pub in Aintree, Liverpool, hosts an unofficial after party following the Grand National, which is beyond popular. I love to sit there and watch thousands of people dancing
and enjoying themselves, and think, ‘we created this’.
What advice would you give to other operators looking to go multiple?
Being a multiple is great, with more headaches and challenges than you could imagine but equally, there’s a million reasons to get up and achieve greatness every day.
It is fair to say you develop your own ‘strength in numbers’ as your team grows.
I am fortunate to have the most amazing team around me at both pub and head office level.
Certainly having three or four pubs feels easier to me than one as you have more resources to help you with the challenges, and also you begin to see the benefits of economies of scale.
The biggest danger is not to become ‘a group’ and look at each individual pub as its own business with its own team of people – I never lose sight of this.
How would you describe being an operator?
It’s the best job in the world. We get to create amazing pubs and enjoy the pride in doing this.
Once the pub has been created we then get to create jobs. Then, after this, we get to create amazing experiences for people. What could be better?
The challenges are more than outweighed by seeing all the amazing events we do and the feedback generated. The hours are long, you can never truly switch off and you will always have an opportunity or indeed problem whirring around in your head. My brain would be bored without all those things in my head.
Why are you in the hospitality trade?
I would say this is more by accident. I applied for a job at Aldi but didn’t get it and ended up doing some marketing for a pub company.
Some 15 years later, and having found a way to get a few leases on my own, I can honestly say I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry
Blind Tiger pubs:
Broadfield Arms. A community local in Leyland, Lancashire. With great facilities for kids and families
The Chestergate. A community based high street pub in Stockport centre, Greater Manchester
The Cross Keys. A rural pub in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, with a large beer garden and kids play area. Community focus with teams both in the pub and local area
The Halfway House. Recently refurbished venue in Runcorn, Cheshire, located right in the heart of the community
Queens Arms. Community pub located next door to the world-famous Aintree racecourse in Liverpool
Rising Sun. Landmark pub in the Hazel Grove area of Stockport, Greater Manchester, known for live music and its giant TV screens
Rose & Crown. Famous for rock music and real ale, this is the most popular pub in our hometown of Chorley, Lancashire
Station Hotel. If you had to define a ‘town centre local’, you would probably describe this pub. It’s like the Cheers bar but in Altrincham, Greater Manchester
Bridge. A great Lancashire pub in the shadow of Blackpool FC, which is home to football fans, drag artists, pigeon fanciers, darts fans and hosts daily bingo and karaoke sessions
The Grapes. One of Liverpool’s most iconic venues, and former watering hole of The Beatles
The Talbot. Star Pubs & Bars community sports pub of the year, this is the hub of the village of Euxton, Lancashire
The White Horse. When you inherit a pub known locally as the ‘S***e Horse’, you know you have your work cut out. Despite everybody telling us it would never work, we invested heavily in this pub, believing in our team and now it’s the busiest pub in Irlam, Greater Manchester
The Wishing Well. This pub was closed when we took it on. Now the busiest and best known pub in the area with an amazing reputation for real ale and live music in Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancashire
The Crown and Cushion. Located on the Market Square in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, this is a true town centre local, getting busy early doors with thirsty market traders. Again, we took this from a closed pub to a real community pub in the town centre
The Park Tavern. Not many pubs can boast sports teams every night, but the Park Tavern in Basford, Nottingham, truly can. They love sports from dominoes to football and everything in between