‘I'm doing better than I ever have done’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Success story: Leigh Mac opens up about the Saddle Inn's future plans
Success story: Leigh Mac opens up about the Saddle Inn's future plans

Related tags Cheshire Property Social responsibility

Business is better than ever at the Saddle Inn, Chester, Cheshire, but there’s more to running a pub than “dripping in gold” according to its licensee.

The site, which was recently crowned Best Pub for Entertainment at the Great British Pub Awards, was making £35,000 a week versus the usual £20,000. “I’m doing better than I probably ever have done,” said the operator Leigh Mac. 

Mac put this down to customers’ trading up, meaning a rise in spend. Looking to 2023, Mac was spending more in the pub’s entertainment offering to give people a reason to come out. 

He said: “It’s not about making money to be dripping in gold, it's about just being comfortable making a loss to get by.” 

Although, he added, “we are dripping in gold at the minute”. However, for Mac this wasn’t what the business was about. 

“Money doesn’t make you happy,” he said. “It’s other people’s happiness and wanting them to be here. For me it’s about giving people experiences.” 

Giving back to the community

The operator insisted prices would not go up at the pub, despite having to deal with economic challenges like inflation and rising wages. 

He believed it was better to get a cheap price for something than no price at all. If he upped the cost of overnight stays at the site, people would not be able to afford it. 

“I’ve got to give something back to the community,” said Mac, who keeps gigs free to attend at the venue. For New Year’s Eve, he was reducing the price of rooms for the night and only booking in people he knew.  

The event would be limited to 150 people and would include regular customers. “You just want a nice night,” he said. “You don’t want to be fighting for a taxi and paying three times the amount. It’s just about trying to give something back.” 

The Saddle Inn was also teaming up with UberEats in the new year to offer a food and alcohol takeaway offering to the community. Mac predicted the cost-of-living crisis would mean people would spend more time at home, therefore spend more on takeout.   

There were no other pubs in the area offering alcohol delivery to your house, he added. 

Social media ready

The team also planned to continue marketing the pub on social media, which Mac said was a “phenomenal” tool for business. As people spent more time at home, he predicted they’d spend more time on social media. 

They would then see people having “so much fun” at the Saddle Inn on TikTok or Facebook and it would stick in their head, meaning when they did go out, they’d choose to go there. 

Mac talked about the importance of staying positive. "If you’ve got worries, you’re going to portray the negative, so I’m very positive,” he said. 

He also had advise for other pub operators: “Keep it relevant, keep on top of it, and continue to smash it out on social media to encourage people to come out”. 

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