Hamish Stoddart and Lee Cash's Peach Pub Company is expanding its portfolio by giving a leg-up to fellow entrepreneurs through joint-venture partnerships. Christopher Walton talks to one such partner, Andrew Coath
The Peach Pub Company is more than just an Adopted Business it is a collection of Adopted Businesses - made possible by founders Hamish Stoddart and Lee Cash's approach to shared partnerships with rising stars in the industry looking for a career in the pub trade.
One such rising star is Andrew Coath, who owns the Black Horse at Woburn, Bedfordshire, and its sister pub, the Swan in nearby Salford, in partnership with Stoddart and Cash. The Cumbria native has spent his life working in hospitality and always had a desire to open his own business, but it was only by working with Peach that Coath could limit his outlay to become the manager and owner of two pubs just five miles apart.
Coath heads up the company Pure Peach, which he set up to run the Black Horse and the Swan, while retaining Peach Pub Company's central human resources systems, produce sourcing contracts and overall ethos. He put in £50,000 to take on the lease at the Black Horse, and Cash and Stoddart backed him with a further £200,000. The trio made their money back in just 12 months.
"I signed the lease on the two properties and it is on my shoulders for 25 years, but Lee and Hamish are in there with me," Coath reflects. "In October 2004 I was offered the Black Horse and I took that on in November, operating it as an un-refurbished pub. By February 2005 I was running the Swan."
Coath began his career as a trainee general manager and then head of food and beverage at the Grand hotel in Brighton, famed for handling political party conferences. He moved on to the Swallow Royal hotel in Bristol and the NEC Group's International Convention Centre in Birmingham, where, as head of food and beverage, he handled the banqueting operations for the G8 and Nato world summits.
Five years of high-profile mass catering was enough for Coath to begin the search for his own business and cross paths with Lee Cash, who had just left Le Petit Blanc in Birmingham to start Peach.
"I wanted my own business, and I was looking in Kenilworth, but I knew Lee and he said to me, ‘You don't need to invest all your money. Work with me in partnership.' That is why I invested my money. I knew that if I achieved the operational costs and kept in line with the budget, I would get my money back within two years," he says.
"I knew the Rose & Crown [in Warwick] and the Fishes [in North Hinksey] and saw what they could achieve with these pubs. I knew I would get my return on investment. Peach had set up some great HR systems, so when we began operating the pub that was all already in place. They had really worked out all the things you need to start a business, and it is all there for you. Now we just have one meeting a month to go through the numbers."
With the Black Horse and the Swan so close to each other, Coath developed two very distinct pubs with very different offerings to ensure he wasn't cannibalising his own business. The Black Horse, a traditional 16th-century village coaching inn, focuses on cosy interiors and British food such as a roast free-range chicken breast, with sautéd cabbage, maple-cured bacon and chestnut cream (£12.50) while the Swan, with its vast garden space and rural vistas, is light and airy, with Mediterranean food and classic comfort dishes such as garlic prawns with tomatoes and chickpeas (£6.50).
Coath has been keen to use his background in banqueting and event management at both sites, putting on charity fundraisers for Macmillan Cancer Support and local charity Special Needs and Parents.
Following a £27,000 overhaul during 2006, the Swan's garden space has become a strong area for attracting customers, with regular summer barbecues run by head chef Ross Whitmill, who has worked with Coath for the past three years. The pair are currently searching for a third Pure Peach site in Bedfordshire that they could run together.
"I would like to reward Ross, as he has been with the company for five years, and he has been a head chef for three years in my properties," says Coath. "What Ross wants to do is become another joint venture, and we are looking at getting another couple of sites together for our pod.
"I think I have grown with Peach, and I am ready for a new site. We have robust systems in place and the people in place to do it. Our staff retention is really good, and that means I am ready to operate a third site or a fourth site."
Acorn Scholar Rob Hartwell
In November Peach Pub Company junior chef Rob Hartwell was awarded the 2008 Acorn Scholarship. Caterer caught up with Hartwell just before he jetted off, travelling around the Far East and Australia for six months.
When did you start working for Peach?
Hartwell About five years ago I had a part time job at the Fleece in Witney and I moved into the kitchen. I have always had a love of food, and I got a job in the kitchen when I was 20 and have gone from strength to strength with Peach. I spent my first six months at the Fleece, moving up to commis chef, and then moved to the Fishes, where I became junior chef.
Why do you enjoy working for Peach?
They are a very supportive company, and I am very loyal to them. I like to think of them as a "goodwill" company, making sure everyone feels happy and everything is running smoothly.
They have a family feel. Lee and Hamish go around all the pubs, and it is not a case of nobody knowing who is in charge. We can all have a say about it. Things do not just come through on e-mail we talk and work things out.
Also we source a lot of our food from local suppliers. We make a difference to them, and the company wins awards for it. For example, we get a random bag from Foxbury Farm, and anything can be in it - pigeon, partridge, anything. It starts to become like Ready Steady Cook. You have to think on your feet every time you get a new supplier in.
What is a typical day like?
I get in at about 8.30am to 9am to do prepping and deal with all the problems you can come across. We start lunch service at about 12 and we take it in turns on different stations. From about 2.30pm we get ready for the afternoon with more prep. We have a break and are back in for the evening until 11.30pm, when we clean everything down. I don't find it too stressful at Christmas you can do days without breaks.
What's next for you after your travels?
I will be back in June, and I will be back at the Fishes. There is new stuff that I cannot talk about - until August.
The story so far
Lee Cash and Hamish Stoddart founded the Peach Pub Company in 2001 and they bought the lease on their first site, the Rose & Crown in Warwick, in 2002. Their second pub soon followed, with the Fleece in Witney, Oxfordshire, opening in April 2003. The One Elm in Stratford-upon-Avon opened in August of the same year.
In October 2004 the Fishes in North Hinksey, Oxfordshire, opened, followed by the Black Horse in November 2004 and the Swan in February 2005 - the last two in partnership with Andrew Coath. In December 2005 they took control of the Old Mill in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, with their second joint-venture partner, Alan Turtill, who was formerly operations manager at Kensington Roof Gardens in London.
This year the company was shortlisted for the corporate social responsibility award at November's National Business Awards.