Best pub in the country owner shares secrets to success

By Amelie Maurice-Jones contact

- Last updated on GMT

GBPA winner: Making the most of your location and creating a welcoming atmosphere are key to the Best Pub of the Year's success
GBPA winner: Making the most of your location and creating a welcoming atmosphere are key to the Best Pub of the Year's success

Related tags: Property, Great british pub awards, Norfolk, Gastropub, Garden

The co-owner of the Best Pub of the Year, the Brisley Bell, gave top tips for running an award-winning pub, including creating a “warm” atmosphere and making the most of the surrounding setting.

The Brisley Bell in north Norfolk was crowned the best pub in the country at the Great British Pub Awards 2021, after initially netting the title of Best Pub Garden for its herb garden, attractive terrace and bordering meadow.

Amelia Nicholson, who co-owns the pub with Marcus Seaman, believed the British pub was replacing the church as “the great hub in the community” in an increasingly secular society.

She said: “At the heart of the pub are the people in it”, including locals who felt comfortable coming in “whether they’ve been building, or farming, or out for dinner in their jacket and tie.”

When a customer walks through the door, they make an instant snap-judgement as if meeting another person, according to the former drama teacher, who wants the atmosphere to be “homely” and “warm”.

“Quite often you'll come in and you'll hear people saying, ‘hello, how are you doing’, which is the warmth we like to have,” she said.

However, Nicholson said creating a “relaxed” atmosphere required “military precision” behind the scenes and compared running the pub to “floating like a swan on the top of the water and paddling madly underneath”.

An integral part of British culture

For Nicholson, every setting has pros and cons, and running a successful pub is about focusing on making the most of the pros.

She said: “If you are a little pub, what is it about your pub? Is it that you create an amazing atmosphere, is it a focus on something specific like the community around you?

“It can be that the beer is fantastic, it can be that the food is fabulous, it can be that the rooms you have are incredibly comfortable.

“The British pub is a big part of our culture, and if you get it right, then people come.”

Making the most of what you've got

For the Brisley Bell, the clear ‘pro’ was the outdoor space, which Nicholson and Marcus stripped to a “blank canvas” then built up into a multi-levelled garden complete with flowering plants and shrubs, 30 bird boxes and ‘secret’ tables in a hedge.

Nicholson said: “There’s a big lawn which sometimes people play croquet on. We can put a tent on there if we want to, and kids are quite often running around on that lawn.

“There's some lovely quiet areas where you can sit on a bench in a corner. We've got a courtyard for our staying guests in the garden as well.”

Unlike some industries, hospitality is a “very generous industry”, said Nicholson, for whom it was a “shock and wonderful surprise” to win the Best Pub of the Year award.

She said: “People are really happy to see other places succeed because we value what we do. We understand it's not just about the one person running it, it's about the British culture.

“It's about giving as much as creating a business.”

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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