March Update: The Stephan Langton

30 March 2009
March Update: The Stephan Langton

This pub is privately owned by a local family, which gives leaseholders Chris and Rosie Robinson the freedom to operate it as a free house and decide on suppliers and products.

However, the property is also situated on the privately owned Wotton estate, so the Robinsons lease the car park and stream behind the property from the estate but land beyond the stream is leased through their tenancy agreement.

The lease is due for renewal this November so the Robinsons are hoping to discuss with their landlord issues relating to wear and tear and enhancing the property. These include improving the eating area in front of the building, installing a trellis to partition diners from the car park, landscaping the bank by the car park and developing the field behind the pub into a garden to generate additional sales.

The Robinsons would also like to enhance the accommodation above the pub, where they live with their two children, as at present they do not have a separate kitchen.

"Over the past couple of years we have had a good relationship with our landlord," Chris says.

"When we first arrived I suggested proper secure housing for the waste bin in front of the building and he took responsibility for this project. We believe the landlord sees we are enthusiastic about the business and that we care about the building and its environment."

Mentor James Horler is impressed by the pub but observes that more work is needed to lure customers to the property during off-peak times, partly because of its remote location.

He advises the Robinsons to focus on boosting revenue and profitability to allow them to negotiate a better deal with their landlord when the lease is up for renewal.

As well as recommending extended business hours on Sundays, Horler has made a number of suggestions, including reducing the number of four-top tables.

"Customers coming to the pub are nearly always in twos so there should be more two-top tables, which can be made into fours if needed," he says.

When negotiating with their landlord he suggests the Robinsons take an open approach: "I think the property does need landlord investment and outstanding areas should be addressed.

"Everybody wants to win here. The tenants want a property that is well invested and the landlord doesn't want to be unsuccessful because he has no income. If everybody works together the freehold value can grow and profitability can grow," he adds.

March Update

Business owners the Robinsons are focusing on their spring menu and a sales activity plan with the help of 3663, following a hectic few weeks.

Not only was the Stephan Langton's cellar flooded owing to ice and a rain storm, but the boiler broke down twice and the pub was without hot water for six days.

On top of this, the tumble dryer and freezer needed to be replaced, the griddle stopped working, there was a chimney fire and a power cut. Nonetheless, the Robinsons have kept focused.

"We had a positive meeting with our mentor, James Horler, who immediately saw the pub's potential and indicated ways in which it could be more profitable," says Chris.

"One thing he pointed out was the fact that we served food for only two hours for Sunday lunch when it was our busiest day of the week.

"So last Sunday we extended our food service by an hour, and takings were up by 29% on the average for Sunday lunch.

"It was such an obvious thing to do, but, as James says, you can be too close to the business sometimes."

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