‘There’s still life in the pub’ says New Inn boss after overseeing turnaround
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
At a time when many pubs around Norfolk are closing their doors, a Broads-based establishment has proved that given the right combination of factors, they can still be successful.
Mark Stockley, the owner of The New Inn, Horning, has masterminded the pub's turnaround.
Three years ago when he and wife Kim took over, The New Inn was rated in the bottom 10% out of over 600 establishments in the greater Norwich area on TripAdvisor. Today it is ranked number 20.
Although it is an industry under pressure – 27 pubs have closed around Norwich in the past decade – this didn't stop Mr Stockley from making a significant investment in The New Inn.
He said given the right set of factors, a pub could be profitable.
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'We took over The New Inn in June 2014 and started making some significant changes to the decor, the kitchen, toilets and layout.
'The location with its terrace and river frontage made it really attractive and we wanted to create a relaxed family friendly environment offering locally-sourced, quality food that was still good value.'
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Mr Stockley, who has a background in investment management and has worked in London, Singapore, New York and Hong Kong, said he had never previously given serious thought to owning a pub.
'I had loosely joked about it, but it was not something I was really thinking about. But when I sat down with the previous owner and started looking at the figures, I saw it as a viable proposition.'
He said he had been attracted by the pub's river-front location, and the prospect of creating a family-friendly environment.
But he cautioned anyone wanting to enter the industry to do their homework carefully, saying independent pub owners faced many challenges.
'You're up against big groups with massive purchasing power offering cheap drinks and dining. Some independent pubs are trying to operate under unrealistic economic conditions – the rent is too high, tied drinks are expensive and there are forced retail price index increases which keep costs going up.'
He said in today's trading environment, the right combination of 'golden criteria' needed to be present for a pub to be successful.
'These include locality, knowing your clients and focusing on what they want, serving freshly cooked food, offering good service and creating a relaxed family friendly atmosphere.
'The bigger pub companies work on quantity and price, not necessarily quality.'