Pub company continues its expansion out of north Norfolk

James Nye at bar

James Nye at bar - Credit: Archant

A family pubs company which established its reputation in Brancaster on the north Norfolk coast has continued its growth with the acquisition of a sixth property.

While increasing numbers of pubs are failing across the country, Anglian Country Inns has bucked the trend, sharply increasing turnover at each new property since it bought its first one, the White Horse (then The Lobster Pot) in 1995.

James Nye, 33, who has succeeded his father Cliff as managing-director, said the recipe for their latest pub, the Cricketers at Weston in Hertfordshire, would be the same as for all their previous ones - a focus on real ales and a hearty menu using the best of local ingredients.

And for anyone straying there from Norfolk there would be a reminder of home in the greeting from general manager Marek Vlk who spent four years at the company's second Brancaster inn, The Jolly Sailors.

James, who is proud to have started on the bottom rung, washing pots as a teenager before progressing to barman, said: 'To make a pub successful, it is about the whole experience - people, product and place.

'We decide what's appropriate for each different site and we put the ownership of that on the head chef; having chefs who believe what they are doing, adapting the menu to each location, is why we are doing so well.'

James's entrepreneur father, who had a long-held ambition to enter the pub industry, had been sailing across the Atlantic when he took a call telling him The Lobster Pot - then rundown with a caravan site attached - was on the market.

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Reinstating the original name, The White Horse, he set about renovating and extending the whole building with such eco-friendly touches as a living roof, matching the plantlife to the coastal marshes.

Going from strength to strength, it has won a host of awards over the past two years, including being named among the top 50 gastropubs for 2014.

James is keen to point out that The Jolly Sailors, 200 yards along the road and acquired six years ago, has found success in a totally different way.

While the new wave of gastropubs had brought tremendous success to north Norfolk there was still an important family market to be catered for.

He said: 'I grew up in the pub, coming in with my father for a Coke and a packet of crisps.

'We do pub grub at The Jolly Sailors, but we still do it really well with a focus on local food; all our pies are homemade.'

The family appeal had helped to increase turnover four-fold since Anglian Country Inns took over.

Business had also been boosted by introducing all day dining.

'It's amazing how busy we can be at 4pm. People want to eat when they are hungry,' he said.

James revealed that as well as increasing their portfolio in Hertfordshire, they were also eyeing further acquisitions in north Norfolk.

Is your pub business flourishing? Contact the Eastern Daily Press' tourism correspondent Stephen Pullinger by emailing