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We recently visited Emma and Colin Manford, tenants at the Black Dog in Oswaldtwistle, to ask them some questions about what it’s like to run a pub. The property has recently been refurbished so we wanted to know about their experience throughout the process.
We’ve been here for 14 months now and the experience has been everything we thought it would be and more. It’s a big demand; from admin, training staff to a standard we’re happy with, building trust with our customers and being confident in our decisions, there’s definitely a lot to learn! We’ve been gaining new skills and constantly developing them in order to improve our business. Reminding ourselves that we’re running a professional business is constantly front of mind, so you have to think about how you want to run your pub and what your customers expect. Setting the rules out straight away is something that we’ve learnt helps to benefit the business. The impact that word of mouth can have and the increase we’ve seen in the number of customers coming into our pub because of it has been great.
It’s been huge as we’ve become first time bosses and the pub has meant we’ve had to completely change our lifestyle. The first 12 months we can liken to having a new born baby! There’s that constant feeling of being present in your pub, engaging with your customers and knowing that there’s no real start or finish to any shift. If you haven’t come from a pub background, be prepared and ready to grow into the role and get used to such a changeable environment. A hands on approach is the best and most proactive option as what you put in is definitely what you get out.
It’s like anything, there have been easier challenges and much more difficult ones, and that’s because there are so many different aspects to the job. From learning about cash flow, to the workings of the cellar, keeping a safe environment and being able to de-escalate situations, there are lots of challenges but they can be amazingly rewarding. Because we’re a partnership, it’s been easier to take on the challenge together as we each have someone to rely on. It can often be difficult to separate home life and schedule time off as you never really leave work behind.
Firstly, you need to have your finances in order and have a realistic allowance in your accounts. Be prepared to have some leeway in your balance as you never know what might need covering, and it’s always good to have more than you think you need. Secondly, you need to be secure in the strength of family relationships. You have to be certain that your family support system is strong and can withstand the constant pressure that comes with running a pub. Finally, having trust in Thwaites is essential and you need to know that asking for help isn’t bad and when you do ask the help is great. Having that solid relationship is vital and it’s only going to help improve and benefit the business, so don’t take this support for granted.
Becoming part of the Thwaites family has been a great experience and it’s been wonderful joining such an established company. The length of time that Daniel Thwaites has been in the brewing business was of great comfort and it gave us the trust and confidence in their team. We’ve received and experienced huge support which has just been brilliant.
What made us go with Thwaites was the instant response to our request and in the initial process everything was laid on the table regarding what to expect and kept very honest. Thwaites encourage and champion progression and strengths whilst weaknesses are fully supported. Our area business manager Linda has been amazing throughout the whole process keeping everything achievable and realistic. She is still a great source of support in offering new suggestions and guidance. There is always that availability and communication which is a major benefit and if situations arise, they are dealt with quickly.
It was definitely challenging, but with a set timeline for the refurb project to be carried out, it made it much easier. The process was very straightforward and we were given all the information about the project throughout. We had meetings with our area business manager and other parties regularly to discuss and present our opinions about how we wanted the pub to look and feel. We’d recommend that you have to enjoy the process and make it a pub you’ll love and want to spend time in – that’s the ultimate goal! The confidence we had in Thwaites really helped during the process and was vital in our expectations being met.
It’s been an overwhelmingly positive reception with increases in revenue, new customers and a stronger retainment in terms of these customers coming back, which is great! We’ve noticed that people are more engaged with the space and are noticing the little changes we’ve made. The heart of the pub has stayed the same with nothing changing drastically, but instead the space has been massively improved. It still feels familiar to previous customers, but our new ones are loving the new look. It’s been a really positive and fun time!
We would have to say winning at the Thwaites Pub Awards was an amazing moment. The sense of achievement has made all the hard work and what we’ve created at the Black Dog worth it. It’s something we’re immensely proud of, but honestly it’s been all the small moments that have mattered. Getting appreciation from our customers is always a boost. For example, a lady rang up to ask about something and ended up saying that she has lived in Oswaldtwistle for many years and has never seen the Black Dog looking so good. Another aspect that has been rewarding is having a team of staff that enjoy coming into work and who appreciate the strong and trusting relationship we have built up with them.
We’re excited for the business’ future with plans to win more awards. This year we’re completely focused on making the Black Dog even better; we’ll keep improving, and maintaining the high standards we have already set ourselves.
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