Four City of London professionals clubbed together to buy their local pub, the White Swan in Twickenham, after operator Massive Pub Company went into administration. They brought on board Anthony Miller, fifth investor and a former director of chartered surveyors Humberts Leisure, to help save their local. He tells Neil Gerrard how the pub is faring now.
Caterer Why did the investors originally decide to buy the pub?
Anthony Miller They were interested in trying to keep the pub alive because they live locally. It's a popular rugby pub and is very busy in the summer because of its location. It has a beer garden that runs right down to the river and is a nice place to be.
Caterer How did you get involved?
AM I've been in the industry all my professional life. The investors initially wanted some advice on values, which I gave them. I'm a former director of Humberts Leisure and I'm still a consultant, so the deal came under the Humberts Leisure banner.
Caterer What process did you have to go through to buy the pub?
AM Massive Pub Company went into administration in 2008, but the pub itself didn't. We bought the lease from the administrator, and I negotiated the purchase of the freehold from Enterprise.
Caterer You've recently undertaken a refurbishment at the White Swan. What work have you done?
AM When we took it over there were a lot of repairs that needed doing to the pub, and we've dealt with those. It took a week just to clean the floor, so that should give you some idea of what it was like. But it has come up really well now and we've taken it back to what it should have been. We've done a refurbishment of the trading area, upgraded the seating and generally tidied the pub up. It cost around £50,000 in total.
Caterer How much day-to-day involvement do you and the other investors have in how the pub is being run?
AM We asked Convivial to run the pub for us on a management contract. I've known Kris Gumbrell [Convivial chief executive] for many years; he was originally with Greene King and he has operated pubs for as long as I've known him. Convivial has eight freehold managed outlets in London and this one fitted in very well geographically within the company's trading area and format.
Caterer What kinds of things, other than the refurbishment, has Convivial done to improve the pub?
AM It was profitable when Massive held it but it lacked a bit of direction. We now have a nice range of beers, we've got four real ales on tap and the food is improving. We've improved the menu enormously, the controls are much tighter and Convivial has brought some proper management expertise to the pub. We're very pleased with what it has done.