Where did it all begin for Barons?
Surprisingly our journey didn't begin with pubs at all. Our first business in 2000, was a restaurant in Cranleigh we named Barons. Eager to expand, we went on to open our first pub The Star in Leatherhead and it was there really that we came into our own. We opened The Star at a time when pubs were shifting their focus away from being traditional, local boozers. This shift influenced us towards making a decision to concentrate specifically on the niche market of family dining pubs and so we sold Barons restaurant in 2003 and launched Barons Pub Company in its honour, which today has 7 sites.
What sets your pubs apart from the masses?
Ultimately our emphasis on the family trade. A lot of pubs shy away from attracting families, either choosing to rely on the drinks trade or focus on fine dining in the form of a gastro pub where the food markup is higher. We on the other hand believe we excel in making each generation feel welcome and comfortable in the same space through positive management and hospitality. Winning the Surrey Lifes Best Family Dining Pub Award was a proud moment for us.
How did you come across Concorde BGW?
We discovered Concorde on a visit to The Curious Pig in the Parlour and were really impressed by their new look. We've now invested in Guy and his team to design and build all of our pubs. Projects have ranged from smaller £150K facel ifts to large-scale refurbishments like The Rose & Crown, which included a complete re-configuration of the garden and introduction of alfresco dining.
How much have the pubs benefited from investing in refurbishment?
Hugely. From a financial point of view the business takings have increased by up to 25%, so we've already seen a great return of investment. On top of that, the staff members are now prouder of their place of work and the new design has given the pubs a sense of occasion which has led to an increase in spend per head and rise in repeat business.
Guy and his team have shown invaluable commercial understanding, making sure we get the most out of the space we've got and getting more bums on seats which means money in the till. Concorde have transformed empty spaces such as old glass washer cupboards and excess wine storage into private tables for six or cosy snug areas that customers now specifically request. Guys particularly smug about that one...initially we tried to fight him on it.
Our latest project together is The Black Boy in Shinfield. Can you tell us a bit about the design brief?
Well it's our first pub outside of Surrey, but close enough to still benefit operationally with support from the directors and senior management. It's a beautiful 16th Century building adorned with a wisteria that happens to be one of the oldest in the country. Little is being changed structurally, but Concorde BGW has been tasked with enhancing the traditional features and modernising the essentials. Key design elements include lowering the windows allowing in more light and clearer views, as well as transforming the terrace with a central fire pit and an outdoor bar, which will be crucial in main taining year-round trade.
What’s next for Barons?
We'd like to have 12 to 15 pubs opened within the next 10 years, and with Concorde on our side we're looking into adding accommodation.