In the Spotlight: A&D Pub Services
Dennis Griffiths and Alan Jane are champions of the pub trade. The South Yorkshire licensees joined forces in 2008 to set up consulting business A&D Pub Services Ltd in Barnsley to help revive and reform under-achieving pubs or ones threatened with closure. A&D currently owns two pubs and has a new micropub due to open later this year. They spoke to Take Stock about the importance of ‘the local’ and how licensees can play their part in keeping this British institution alive…
Dennis and Alan know what makes a pub successful. In these uncertain times when, according to CAMRA, pubs are continuing to struggle with 18 closing each week in Britain, their advice is like gold dust.
“You have to run a pub to accommodate your clientele,” says Dennis. “Licensees need to be flexible and run their pub in the way it’ll bring in money. If your customers want food; serve it. If they want entertainment; provide it. If they want a pint at 10.30am; open at that time. It’s that simple.”
It’s this no nonsense, straight-talking approach coupled with their wealth of experience which make the dynamic duo so well-liked and respected within the trade.
Dennis’ first job was as a manager for Samuel Smith Old Brewery before taking on his first tenancy in 1981. At one point, he was leasing eight pubs. Alan, who started his career as a butcher before turning his hand to the trade, has leased 12 pubs. Being in the same business – and town – the pair’s paths often crossed and they became friends.
So, in 2008, alongside their own ventures, they set up A&D Pub Services as they saw an opportunity to advise pub companies on the best landlords to suit their pubs. “We had the experience to advise them on the best way to run their pubs,” explains Alan. “Lots of them were making the mistake of making them too posh or not putting in the right landlord to suit the area. We knew by looking at a pub, knowing its rates and rent, takings and loss what kind of landlord was needed – and we found them.” Keen to be hands-on again, the pair then acquired three pubs from a pub company – again finding the right landlord for each one. The pubs being Tom Treddlehoyle – an Enterprise tenancy – The Furnace and The Silkstone – both free houses – all in Barnsley, all local, community pubs; an area where the pair’s experience and passion shines through.
“Times are changing and more ‘super’ pubs are cropping up, but local pubs still play an important, vital role within the community – we need to use them or lose them,” says Dennis. “Whether it’s the village pub or one on a housing estate, the local can be the heart of the community and symbolise so much more than just being ‘a boozer’. It would be very bad news not just for the industry, but people too, if pubs were to die out.” And Alan and Dennis are living proof of how to run one successfully…
“None of our pubs serve food, because that is not something our customers want,” explains Dennis. “They are all run according to the customers who come in.”
In addition to A&D, Alan owns three pubs; the Hare and Hounds and Saville Square in Barnsley, and the Crown and Cushion in Sheffield all of which are food-led establishments.
“They are a destination for food, and that’s what attracts our customers,” says Alan. “But that’s what the customers from those areas want – hence why they work.”
The Furnace, based in Hoyland just outside Barnsley, was refurbished to a very high standard and won Winter Pub of the Season 2014/2015. According to CAMRA the new furnishings and fittings as well as the local landlord have brought the wonderful pub ‘back to life’.
“The Furnace tends to get busier in the evening as we cater for more office-type workers who want a post-work or evening drink,” says Dennis. “Whereas The Silkstone, which is situated within a housing estate, attracts more retired customers who like a pint early doors and local labourers who come in for a tea-time drink and are able to leave their van and walk home. It has an old-fashioned tap room which has a pool table and darts board – but obviously women are now allowed in!”
One thing all three pubs have in common is the community spirit that’s alive and well in each.
“You have to get the community involved,” adds Alan. “Whether it’s making local groups welcome, setting up your own darts or pool club or holding events for the family over key calendar dates, the pub needs this interaction and support to help it survive.”
And in return the pub gives something back.
“We built a stage and outside bar at Tom Treddlehoyle in the beer garden, so have regular free entertainment playing. In The Furnace and The Silkstone we also serve complimentary sandwiches and snacks on the bar at tea-time,” says Dennis. “It’s these little touches which make the customers feel special – and hopefully keep returning!”
It’s clear from the pubs’ Facebook pages, which are full of positive comments and pictures of events, that the local isn’t dead. You just have to know how to do it well.
“You have got to have good standards,” explains Alan. “Clean pub, good staff and a warm friendly welcome.”
Last December, they sold Tom Treddlehoyle but still have The Furnace and The Silkstone and are opening a new micro pub later this year. “It’s an achievement to stay in this business for 46 years and still be expanding!” adds Dennis.