The benefits of partnership between operators and suppliers were highlighted at the Royal Oak of Luxborough's recent open day, sponsored by American Express. In choosing three key suppliers as his main speakers, Kevan Draper acknowledged their role in helping him build a successful business.
For Draper, new to the industry when he bought the Royal Oak two-and-a-half years ago, this was critical. "We had good premises," he told his audience. "We could give a quality service, but we realised early on that, in order to pull everything together, we had to pick the right suppliers."
The suppliers with which Draper does business are selected on their ability to service the needs of a remote pub. "If beer runs out on a Sunday," he says, "I need a supplier who is flexible enough to bring some more over, not to have to wait for a large brewer which can only come once a week."
The three speakers at the open day - Martin Love, managing director of the Beer Cellar; Jim Baker, proprietor of Ross Allen Wines; and Clive Rogers, proprietor of Ace Catering - have each forged links with the Royal Oak. They all recalled their first meeting with Draper, even confessing that they didn't think his business would succeed. "The first time I met Kevan," Love admitted, "I remember thinking that I'd give him three months and then he would go under. I'm delighted to be proved wrong."
Key to the relationship is for the supplier to take out an element of the hard work, critical to a small business which already has so many other things to worry about. Baker, for example, puts together Draper's entire wine list. His 50-strong selection comes complete with descriptions and represents a variety of areas. All Draper has to do is sell it.
"I don't know much about wine," admits Draper, "but that doesn't really matter because Jim has done this for me. If I'm asked for a recommendation, I can only really talk about our best sellers and refer people to the list."
For Rogers, whose company specialises in second-hand equipment and lease deals, the success of the relationship has been in taking the trouble to fulfil all requests, no matter how small. At the Royal Oak, as the room business expanded, so did the breakfast trade. Draper needed a toaster, so Rogers supplied a second-hand one. He's currently on the trail of a pasta machine, as head chef Scott Fitzgerald wants to experiment with fresh pasta dishes.
Next week we catch up with some of last year's Adopted Businesses. Watch for a new series of Adopted Businesses to be launched in August.