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August update: The Taverners – money talks

19 August 2009
August update: The Taverners – money talks

Roger Serjent and Lisa Choi, the husband-and-wife team at the helm of the Taverners in Godshill on the Isle of Wight, are beating the credit crunch with good old-fashioned saving before spending.

Rather than rely on banks to fund the £10,000 refurbishment at the start of the year, the couple funded the business investment themselves. "We save the cash before spending, and where possible we spread the cost over several months," explains Serjent. "For example, when we re-covered the chairs and ordered curtains, we paid £300 a month for three months. It's a system we have used several times and it helps us and the supplier."

Serjent and Choi took over the reins in May 2008 but can already boast significant trade growth of 30% on the previous owners for the 2008-09 tax year. Costs have inflated across the business, with beverages spend increasing the most, at 47%. Other cost increases include food (33%) and staff (21%). However, Serjent says the rise in costs is a result of an increase in trade and is therefore sustainable.

The couple recently chose not to pursue the purchase of the freehold from landlord Punch Taverns after the two parties were unable to reach an agreement on price. They now aim to take the business to its maximum potential and re-examine the situation at the end of a three-year period. "At this point we may consider selling the business and starting over with another failing pub," Serjent says.

However, if they have a suitable management team to run the Taverners, they might invest in a new venture using a shared ownership scheme, as suggested by their mentor Lee Cash of the Peach Pub Company. The strategy to grow the business includes expanding the kitchen and opening a shop to sell home-cooked food to holiday-makers. In doing so, the larger kitchen will be better able to cope with a full restaurant than it is now.

Cash likes this idea, applauding the pair for recognising the freezer-to-fryer culture on the island and identifying the gap in the market to provide fresh food. However, he recommends they focus on one plan. "Roger and Lisa make a good team. They talk about building a sellable business, but opening a shop may make the business tricky to sell on."

He adds: "They have a lot of good ideas. Each may work, but they need clarity of strategy. If they can settle on their strategy they will realise their goal."

High Street, Godshill, Isle of Wight PO38 3HZ
01983 840707

"Summer has arrived on the island," says chef-patron Roger Serjent. Business at the Isle of Wight pub is benefiting from strong tourist trade and the pub has had full services for lunch and dinner.

The seasonal nature of the tourism industry on the island remains an obstacle when recruiting and retaining quality staff. The Taverners recently lost a chef, and front of house has seen one member of staff come and go.

Serjent says he has found more success in recruiting young, keen locals and training them according to the Taverners' standards. "Jamie Oxley started work as a porter, but since turning 18 he does shifts in the bar and waits tables as well as working in the kitchen," says Serjent.

The head count is made up of three full-time and 14 part-time and casual workers. Rather than recruit extra heads to meet seasonal demand, more hours are given to the part-timers, as most are on holiday from school or college.

Following advice from mentor Lee Cash, more money is being put in the staff bonus pot to help retain quality workers. Amid the summer rush, Serjent and Choi are wrangling with their landlord Punch Taverns over repairs to the waterlogged cellar and the collapse of an external staircase to the upstairs flat, where there is a dispute over liability.

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