Running a pub by the sea is a lot of people’s dream. But with the challenges of seasonality and the transient nature of staff, it’s clear you need a strong licensee to make a success of a pub in these conditions. We were lucky enough to sit down with one such licensee, Tim Joudrey, at The Two Lifeboats in Sheringham on the Norfolk coast.
Pragmatic in his communication, this is a licensee who takes an entrepreneurial approach to running a pub business. Here are six things we learned from him.
1. The pub’s brand is critical.
The branding of The Two Lifeboats is exceptional. Because of the pub’s location, its heritage and of course the name, creating a vintage and nautical theme was a natural choice. However, the investment and creativity with which Tim has applied the theme is breathtaking. He has created a quality brand experience. Thoughtfully curating interiors, designing the logo, menus, and social media content, and engaging in sponsorships and charity partnerships in line with the ethos of the brand, such as supporting the local RNLI station. It feels authentic. It’s a pub that people recognise, remember, enjoy, and want to support.
It’s great to hear from someone who understands the power of creating a unique experience, packed with personality. And marketing the pub with branding and personality as much as possible across social media channels. He mentioned that people travel 60-70 miles, just to come for lunch. Testament to the strength of the brand and the experience offered. The brand and personality are critical to The Two Lifeboat’s success!
2. Look at ways to deliver value to customers.
You can’t rely on a location to do the work for you. A stunning location will, of course, drive footfall. But if the experience isn’t up to scratch, customers aren’t going to come back. The Two Lifeboats is a great example of using the location as a hook for customers, but not relying on it. Tim put in the effort to understand the community and the local market, creating a pub experience to meet demand.
“The most important thing is what the customers want,” he told us. He spent time visiting pubs and bars in the local area, talking to people and identifying what they might want from The Two Lifeboats. Inspired by European culture, he’s created a welcoming, food-orientated pub business, combining quality produce with great cooking and service. It’s a premium experience enhanced by the location, rather than being dependent on it. Tim is clear about the value he wants to deliver. And how to do it.
3. Build a winning team.
“You're only as good as your worst member of staff.” It’s so true! It was clear from our time spent at The Two Lifeboats, that the team feels valued and supported. Full training is given so they can confidently provide the levels of service customers expect. And there’s a system of recognition throughout the year, including bonuses and awards, to keep people motivated.
Tim prioritises hiring good people, and then keeping them in the business. His management couple, Stephen and Anna, have been in hospitality for almost twenty years. Their passion for food, hospitality, drinks, and the guest experience, is clear. And it’s infectious, judging by the energy and camaraderie of the staff.
“They're very, very loyal to us. And we are to them,” he added. Inspiring and empowering those around him is key to the success of The Two Lifeboats.
4. Embrace feedback.
Build resilience and be willing to learn. The Two Lifeboats is a great pub because it’s been built on high standards and an openness to opportunity. For Tim, his relationship with Star Pubs & Bars on a leased and tenanted agreement has suited his plans for the pub. He enjoys the support and fairness of the relationship. “What I like about Star Pubs… [& Bars], is that you can have as little or as much help as you can want, a great relationship.”
With a clear vision and solid business plan for the pub, and confidence in the team’s ability to execute it, this entrepreneur is open to feedback. He even enjoys a visit from one of our Mystery Shoppers! But he sees it the way we do, an opportunity to hear constructive feedback from the perspective of the customer, a valuable source of insight.
5. Focus on the figures.
And never stand still. While running a pub on a beautiful coast might seem like a dream, Tim is pragmatic about getting to know the figures. Understanding the risk and investigating the opportunity. Making sure you can make it work, year-round. And keep your eyes on those details, week in and week out. Because of course, the seaside is lovely in the height of summer but calculating the figures to gauge where you’ll be during quieter months is critical to building a sustainable business. For Tim, that meant coming up with a new “Gourmet Season” of food evenings to create reasons for people to visit during quieter months. For anyone thinking of running a pub business, or any business in fact, you’ve got to arm yourself with the figures to plan and move forward. You can learn more about how to write a pub’s business plan.
6. Enjoy being in the company of people.
It can be lonely running a business. But in our line of work, it helps to remember that to run a pub successfully, you’ve got to enjoy being in the company of people. We’re in the business of helping people have a great time. From customers to staff, Tim likes being around people. Listening to people. Being patient with people. Motivating people. And learning from them. That’s why he’s in the hospitality industry. Entrepreneurs with the greatest longevity are those who remember why they got into a business in the first place. Check out Simon Sinek’s 2009 Ted Talk for a bit of inspiration.
We couldn’t agree more – cheers to Tim! We’ll meet you at The Two Lifeboats for a sundowner any day…