At the Taverners in Godshill on the Isle of Wight the pub's commitment to locally sourced produce is evident within moments of walking in and, while a million miles away from the "stack it high, sell it cheap" pubs that dominate the rest of the island, pricing is still very much at pub, not restaurant, prices.
"We use only island meat, which costs us a bit more as it has to be shipped to the mainland to be slaughtered," says Roger Serjent, co-owner of the business with his wife, Lisa Choi. "However, it means we support the local economy and, in turn, our suppliers are regular customers."
Indeed, step into the Taverners and you'll find there's a board on the wall listing how far produce has travelled. Closest is cherries, at 100 yards, with pork, at 400 yards, a near second. Poultry comes just 1.2 miles to its destination, and pretty much nothing - other than exotics, such as oranges, vanilla, olive oils and balsamic vinegars - travels more than nine miles.
With asparagus season in full swing, local farmer Ben Brown cuts and delivers it to the Taverners on his way home, and Richard Hodgeson, the only cheesemaker on the Isle of Wight, is a cheese supplier. With the hardest item to get being herbs, Serjent and Choi have started growing their own.
On opening last year Serjent and Choi went with a daily specials board but subsequently introduced a companion favourites menu to meet the demand for pub staples such as fish and chips, pies, and ham, egg and chips. "I won't put on things such as jacket potato, though - you have to draw the line somewhere," says Serjent.
Regardless, it's working, as Serjent's cooking has won him fans, with luxury hotel the Hambrough's chef Robert Thompson and his brigade in nearby Ventnor now regulars, and a recent visit from the Michelin Pub Guide having taken place.
High Street, Godshill, Isle of Wight PO38 3HZ
3663 ON THE TAVERNERS
The team at the Taverners have a heavy focus on local sourcing, but their market is different to the Stephan Langton, with trade from tourists as well as local islanders. Lisa Choi and Roger Serjent know their customers well and have discussed a number of initiatives with 3663 communications controller Lindsay Winser that will make them stand out from the competition and give them a competitive edge.
"The Taverners is busy and successful but there is still room for growth. Roger and I have spoken about different ways to maximise sales without putting any further pressure on the kitchen," says Lindsay. "The pub has a beautiful garden, and Roger and Lisa make their own breads and tapenades, which instantly made me think that it would be great for customers to be able to hire a picnic basket and take their lunch outside to eat in the sun. Chatting to Roger, he agreed, and is keen to set up a deli counter selling home-made produce for customers to enjoy a bespoke picnic."
"We definitely want to bring this concept to life," says Roger. "We want to do it properly and are in the process now of applying to Defra for funding under their rural community support scheme. It is a longer process, as we'll need to submit feasibility studies and a business plan, but it will definitely be worth it. Ideally, I'd like to have it all ready in October so that we can relieve pressure on the kitchen and offer an alternative to people who have time constraints when ordering food. A good example would be the coaches that stop for a quick 30-minute visit."
3663's client development manager Tim Doran adds: "The careful planning demonstrated by the Taverners and the Stephan Langton is the key to creating a successful catering business, whether you are running a pub, restaurant or hotel and catering for the top, middle or lower end of the market. In the cost sector, particularly, customers will judge an establishment on the variety and price of its menu. At 3663, we recognise that our customers are all different, with needs specific to their business type. We aim to work closely with our customers to understand these differences and can offer bespoke solutions to help create a profitable menu in your pub or restaurant."
Business continues to be good, with the island enjoying strong tourist trade. Best for Business sponsor First Choice Coffee recently paid a visit to provide training and help staff understand why coffee is important.
Mentor Lee Cash, from the Peach Pub Company, has also visited to discuss staffing levels, property issues and incentive schemes. Cash believes that the Taverners' menus remain too long, but Serjent is wary, as the local market is full of menus 70-80 items long and occasionally customers are critical of a perceived lack of choice.
With trade good and the kitchen small, Serjent has listened to Cash and compromised in certain areas to ease some of the significant preparation pressures he and his team of three face day-to-day. To this end, burgers are now made by a butcher - although Serjent still supplies him the spice mix. But attempts to get a producer of ale pie filling - the pub is using some 40kg a week at the moment - haven't come off. The specials board no longer changes daily, which is again helping make daily preparation work manageable.
Believing that things will only get busier, Serjent and Choi plan to recruit a sous chef, maybe luring one from London, as they've so far struggled to attract a local candidate with the right skills.
The couple are also looking at developing part of the pub into a produce and wine store with council funding.
THE TAVERNERS GOES LOCAL
Products are sourced within the following distances (miles unless otherwise stated)
|Organic veg||800 yards|
|Crab and lobster||8.7|
|Free-range eggs and chickens||1.2|
|Free-range pork||400 yards|
|Fish||local day boat|