January update: The Taverners – one year on

28 January 2010
January update: The Taverners – one year on

When Roger Serjent and his wife, Lisa Choi, opened their doors and books to their business mentor, Lee Cash, co-founder of the Peach Pub Company, they were looking for guidance.

"We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing and to find out how to move the business forward," Serjent explains.

But as the Best for Business series draws to a close, have the expectations of the team behind the Taverners pub in Godshill, on the Isle of Wight, been realised?

"For the most part, yes," Serjent says. "Lee wanted us to have definitive goals and he would direct us on how best to proceed. Unfortunately we tend to go with the flow, which I realise is not good business sense."

Cash agrees: "They have definitely moved their own goalposts a number of times, but they seem to have settled down now and are getting good results."

Business has indeed been good, according to Serjent, who says challenging budgets were consistently beaten. However, the couple has no plans to rest on their laurels.

"We will continue to drive turnover. We're looking for an increase of 20-25% in 2010," he adds. "To achieve this, I'll need to be free from kitchen duties so that I can push other areas of the business forward."

One such area is the new shop, currently being installed. The couple identified a gap in the market to provide fresh food and plan to sell home-cooked meals to holiday-makers.

Serjent admits that long-term plans remain a little vague. "We will assess the state of the business in year three or four and consider our options: can we reduce our workload so that the business runs itself? Or should we sell up and start all over again?"

In the meantime, Cash continues to stress the importance of a shared vision within the whole team. "Decide what you want to be, write it down and share it with the team. It doesn't matter too much if it changes, as long as you are clear."

Despite recruitment difficulties as result of the seasonal nature of tourism on the island, Serjent says he has received great feedback about the staff.

In addition the Taverners has been recognised in a number of tourism guidebooks, including the Michelin Pub Guide, and received positive reviews in the national press.

Serjent says that taking part in Best for Business made him examine areas that might have been overlooked. "I don't think there was one piece of advice that made all the difference, but instead a succession of little bits, not just from Lee but also from Lyndsey at 3663 and Steven at First Choice Coffee. They have all planted seeds of thought that we hope to nurture and grow."


The week between Christmas and New Year was the busiest ever for chef-patron Roger Serjent and his wife, Lisa Choi, as business at the Taverners continued to exceed expectations.

Despite being forced to close the pub because of snow, there was no real downturn in trade. However, business had to be turned away when the couple decided to close again for three weeks in January to take a well-earned holiday.

Serjent says that next year they may leave the pub open, if they are confident with the staff they have at the time.

Sofas have been taken out and extra tables added to the main bar to accommodate more covers, as a result of the increased trade and a growing confidence among the staff.

"This has created a better atmosphere in this part of the pub," Serjent says. "Although we are still looking for some old armchairs to put in."

Work has started on installing the shop within the pub, from which the couple plan to sell home-cooked fare to a seasonal holiday market that has until now relied heavily on freezer-to-fryer produce.

Serjent says there is already a growing buzz locally in anticipation of the shop's opening.

A new floor had to be put in the kitchen after the original one collapsed, so the couple took the opportunity re-coat the walls in plastic and add more shelving at the same time.

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