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Making a Success of Your First Pub: The Cartvale

Talent + Opportunity = Success

The Cartvale is a busy local pub with great food. People flock back to the pub time after time, with family and friends. And bring their dogs with them too. What’s the secret sauce for creating such a great pub business? The right pub with the right talent.

Licensee Rick Houston took over The Cartvale in Busby, just south of Glasgow, in 2020. Newly refurbished following a £385,000 investment in 2019, Rick recognised the opportunity to create something special and took on the lease of the revived pub. With over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, but not having taken on a pub before, Rick had a clear vision for what he wanted The Cartvale to offer.

He understood the agreement best suited to him at that time. And he had the talent to take the pub forward.

Maximising the potential of the pub

According to Rick, “The pub had all the attributes that I was looking for in a venue – a good location with a broad catchment area, scope to develop the internal space to allow a focus on delivering a compelling food offer including group dining as well as building on the warmth and character of a much- loved local pub that welcomes families, drinkers and diners alike.

“The outside area was an opportunity waiting to happen – with some willing helpers and a few quid spent on good quality seating as well as planting and lighting, the former area of waste ground has helped transform the venue from a local pub to a destination that can cater for small & large parties inside & out.”

Rick and his team transformed the outside space into a fabulous pub garden, with seating for over 100 people in April 2021. Further expansion of the space now includes the “Shack out the back” with draught beer, cocktails and wine available during sunny days. Its success is testament to his entrepreneurial talent at the helm of a great pub!


A hub for the community

Without a café in the village, The Cartvale serves as a meeting place for the local community. Since opening, Rick has added layers of regular entertainment with DJ and live music events and a weekly quiz which is always fully booked. In addition to the flexible food and drink offering, the team has created multiple reasons to visit, for the pub to play a part in the community and attract new visitors.

Premium pub with great food

Rick’s commitment to great food shows. Investing in skills in the kitchen, he’s nurtured a team able to deliver high quality dishes with a focus on creating everything from scratch, including its famous pizzas. With an eclectic menu of dishes with broad appeal, the team serves pub classics alongside regular specials to keep things interesting. The investment is working. With 4-5 star reviews across the board on Trip Advisor, and one customer describing the freshly made pizza as “one of the best he’s had in Glasgow”.


A partnership that’s gone from strength to strength

Rick took on The Cartvale on a temporary agreement with Star Pubs & Bars in July 2020. The initial temporary agreement, and then the leased & tenanted agreement he moved on to enabled Rick to have the confidence to take on and develop his first pub. He was able to share the risk with us. While he’s built the business his way, we’re proud to have supported his efforts with appropriate support as and when he needed it.

Since then, the pub has gone from strength to strength. Food has grown to 40% of overall sales with wine and spirits sales both roughly 12%, draught beer 25%, and cocktails making an important contribution. Testament to the pub’s reputation and great customer experience, gift voucher sales have grown significantly, and the licensee now measures spend per head on ‘cover’ sales every week, averaging £22 per cover. Overall, sales have grown 8.6% year on year.

Speaking of his plans for the pub, Rick added: “The next phase of building business at The Cartvale is to capitalise on the reputational success that we’ve had so far. With that comes a growing customer expectation so constant evolution of an exciting food and drinks offer and events schedule coupled with great service are the focus for the season ahead.”

Business Development Manager, Campbell Dorward, commented: “Having been shortlisted for several awards, most recently at the 2022 Great British Pub Awards, The Cartvale is a prime example of what we love to do here at Star Pubs & Bars: Match the right talent with the right pub and provide an environment for them to make their mark on the business. We look forward to supporting Rick as he continues to build the business and serve the wider Busby community with a fantastic experience.

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