The centrepiece of the Globe’s menu is a £5.95 carvery, reflecting the managing foursome’s experience with pub chain Toby. There are also six letting rooms upstairs. At our last visit to the Globe, at Overton in Lancashire, the gross profit on food was causing some concern due to the irregular numbers of carvery meals taken, and there was a rethink over marketing in progress after newspaper adverts had not brought the expected response.
Tenants John Hughes and Sue Birkhead and managers John and Sally Hunt have decided that the best way to get people to come and stay is simply to phone up and ask them.
It sounds simple but it actually took two days of constant calling to companies around Morecambe and Lancaster to build up a database of possible customers, including British Energy, British Gas and various smaller firms with offices at the complexes in the harbour. “Now we have a contact name for the person who actually makes the bookings,” explains John Hunt. “We’ve got information for each one, with notes on whether they’re likely to use us as a hotel or restaurant, if they use somebody else as a preference at the moment, that kind of thing.”
The team also contacted everyone on the mailing list of previous guests. All those spoken to are receiving a brochure with one of the 500 Christmas cards being sent, printed at a cost of £130. But Hunt says it is still too early to judge the success of the campaign. “The main point is that now, when we send those letters out, we know who we’re sending them to,” he says. “We’re not just sending them to ‘the managing director’, we’re sending them to a definite person.”
This more systematic marketing technique highlights how the accommodation side of the Globe’s business has become the focus of attention. The previous newspaper and magazine adverts didn’t attract much interest and the Hunts see an empty room as a waste of easy money. “We’re still very quiet on the room side,” says John Hunt. “It’s become the main focus, because it’s not only the fact that they’re staying in a room, but when they’re here they’re spending in the bar and the restaurant as well.”
Recently, three guests who stayed one night spent a further £70 downstairs, and another group of four who stayed for five nights had a total bill of £1,000, of which £400 was food and drink. “Plus, of course, the accommodation turnover goes straight down to profit,” Hunt explains. “There’s no initial cost to it. Your gross profit is the same as your takings.”
The six rooms are made up of one four-poster double room for £64.50 bed and breakfast, two doubles for £49.50, two twins for £49.50 and one single for £32.50. The Hunts recognised from the beginning that those rooms shouldn’t be hard to fill, if they can just get three or four local businesses to use the pub regularly. The Globe is till trying to shake off the legacy of the previous tenants, leaving the Hunts and tenants Hughes and Birkhead to convince people that there is something new on offer.
The Christmas menu with an emphasis on the Globe’s carvery offering went out on 1 December. About 250 bookings had already been taken for Christmas meals throughout the month, but that is still less than John Hunt would have liked.
He is concerned that he may be sounding overly pessimistic. In reality, he knows that the Globe is a good product and he wants people to come and see how it’s changed. The main problem is that it hasn’t had a Christmas offer before and, as he says, the hardest part is getting across to potential customers that there is a new place to go to.
But the Globe will be full on Christmas Day, which will net £2,000 alone at £30 a head for a seven-course meal. The biggest group is 14 people, but most bookings are for two or four. Over the whole month, the Hunts have set a food target of £3,300 a week – or £13,200 for the month. “It’s obviously going to be a slow start, but if it averages out over the period then we’ll hit our target for the month,” Hunt says.
They have also decided that New Year’s Eve at the Globe will be kept as simple as possible – food will be a buffet. Prices had not been finalised as Caterer went to press, but there will be no entry charge and bar prices will be normal.
Since last month there has been a noticeable improvement in the food gross profit. With a target set at 52.5%, there have been several weeks of 50% and higher at the end of November and the beginning of December, compared with figures as low as 40% in October. The credit goes to the carvery, John Hunt says. “It’s doing a bit more business than it was before, and the more it does, the better the gross profit,” he says.
There is an increasing level of consistency in the number of carvery meals being served, the lack of which was the root of the problem in October. The food gross profit was below target entirely due to wastage and over-preparation on the carvery. But last month, in the two weeks spanning the end of November and the beginning of December, the carvery sold 230 meals in the first week and 210 the next. This compares with weekly variations of plus or minus 60 a month ago.
“Really, trade in general isn’t too bad for the time of year,” John Hunt says. “I’d expected it to drop a lot more than it did after the summer, and we’re still doing more than double what it was last year, which is quite promising.”
He concludes: “People tend to have a place where they go and they do take a lot of turning round if they’re set on it, especially out here in a small village when they’ve really got to go out of their way.”
Next visit to the Globe: Christmas and New Year trading, 13 January