As a 21-year-old with hopes of becoming a PE teacher in the final year of a degree, Justine Lorriman signed the lease for the Princess Royal in Burnley, Lancashire, as a “temporary favour” to one of her father’s friends who was struggling to find a “suitable tenant”.
However, almost eight years later, Lorriman has well and truly made the pub her own having purchased the leasehold in 2018 – “the best decision I ever made,” she tells The MA.
“I didn’t really have any expectations of working in the industry,” she continues. “I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity I was given; I was only 21 at the time so it was a risk to take having very little experience in the industry.
“I still finished my degree but then I chose to stick with the pub for a while longer. I’ve never looked back since.”
Having inherited a pub with what she admits was a “bad reputation”, Lorriman has instigated change far beyond aesthetic touches such as the revamped beer garden and new name – the Royal Dyche, in honour of Burnley FC manager Sean Dyche after he brought European football to the town for the first time in 2018.
“I found a lack of respect when first coming into the trade, especially authoritative respect,” she says. “This was the biggest challenge I needed to overcome, and I felt it was the most important aspect on becoming a successful town centre pub.
“My venue had a bad reputation when I first took it over, the clientele didn’t appreciate the staff working there or respect the building. People didn’t take me seriously in the beginning and being so young didn’t help either.
“I feel like many young women have experienced the same and have also had endured sexism when working in a pub,” she adds. “This is something I will not accept; it did not take long for me to put my own stamp on the pub and show customers I would not tolerate any disrespectful conduct.”
Championing women in business
Like the town’s football club – whose fans filled the Royal Dyche before migrating to nearby Turf Moor on pre-pandemic match days – the Great British Pub Award nominated pub now counts itself among Britain’s best.
What’s more, like the pub’s namesake, Lorriman has herself been credited with transforming a Burnley mainstay, adding that winning BT Sport Pub Manager of the Month in November 2018 helped demonstrate how far she’s come as a publican.
“After many years of hard work, the pub now has a welcoming atmosphere and is an enjoyable to socialise whilst having a drink,” she says.
“My staff both male and female enjoy working here and I feel we have a good rapport with our regular clientele, with everyone understanding the line between banter and sexism.”
Yet while Dyche’s name hangs above the door, it’s another footballing trailblazer that Lorriman counts as her biggest influence.
“My role model is Karren Brady,” she explains. “Not only because she is a very successful businesswomen and has had a phenomenal career but also for her role in football, as I am a huge football fan.
“When she became managing director at Birmingham City she was only 23, back then football was a man’s world and she encountered a lot of sexism in that role.
“This is something she confidently tackled and didn’t let the challenge of overcoming this barrier affect her professionalism,” Lorriman adds. “She is well known for championing women in business and, as a businesswoman myself, she has been a huge influence of mine.”
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Lorriman adds that, from her own experience, the hospitality industry is “heading in the right direction” when it comes to gender equality – but that issues including pay and promotion remain glaring when it comes to levelling the playing field.
“Women are now respected more in the industry as it’s more common to find women carrying out higher roles,” she says.
“The representation of women has increased but I think equal pay is the main aspect that requires more attention and needs to be a prime focus beyond the hospitality industry. Having more females in higher roles could also reduce the pay gap.
“The hospitality industry also has very unsociable hours, women who have children can find this very challenging when aiming to juggle childcare and their role,” she continues. “More flexibility on hours would be required to encourage these women to stay in the industry. This could be essential to have in the future to continue improving the balance of genders.”
Now harbouring ambitions of acquiring a food-led pub to add to the wet-led Royal Dyche – “I believe serving food is a whole new level and a new challenge I’d be excited to take on” – Lorriman urges the next generation of women in hospitality to “never give up”.
“Running a successful pub is hard work, but if you put the time and effort in anything is possible,” she says. “Be patient, as they say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ – businesses take time to grow.
“After almost eight years, mine is still growing and improving,” she continues, "and even if you don’t know everything there is to know, learning can happen over time.
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way, you can always learn from them.”