In his time in the industry, Steve has gone from Glass Collector to Owner (alongside his business partners) of five different outlets- two of which are pubs through Punch Taverns. His eclectic CV includes roles in nightclubs, catering and even working on Cruise ships, one of which he won an award for Best International Cruise Ship Cocktail in 1993. He still celebrated in his local pub; after flying to Miami to collect his award, of course!
The Shepherds Crook is a football pub through-and-through. Just a stone’s throw away from Fratton Park, Portsmouth’s home ground, it caters for all comers in the week and then away fans before the game and home fans after on a match day; “the only rule is no Southampton fans” laughs Steve.
But what about when the football ISN’T on? Steve explains that they do lot’s to entice local custom on quieter days; “We have Lounge Lizard which is an entertainment system connected to our TV and sound systems; we can run bingo, race nights, Deal or no Deal and Karaoke, all at the drop of a hat. We offer free pool on Mondays and also have 2 live bands a week. We are committed to being part of the local community, not just the football community”.
Steve has such a wide range of industry experience, I want to get down to the important questions, so here’s Steve’s “Ten in Ten”
What makes you happiest about being in the pub industry?
“I really enjoy the service part, making people happy enjoying the buzz of a full pub.”
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to new Publicans?
“Do every job, walk the walk, it’s difficult to come in and run a pub without knowing what goes into making it a success.”
What has been your most costly mistake?
“We expanded too quickly, took too many pubs on, that was a mistake, and then generally, there have been times when we have been guilty of not promoting acts properly which you just can’t afford to do with margins as tight as they are.”
What did you want to want to be when you were growing up?
If money were no object, what changes would you make to your pub?
“I’d like to build an extension to have an extra bar in for match days and add a function room, that’d be nice!”
Who or what is your competition, and how do you beat them?
“It’s Supermarkets, cinemas, anywhere where people spend their leisure pound. We compete by providing a friendliness of service and entertainment, you can’t have a band coming round your house, after all!”
What trait do you think you most need to be a publican?
“You have to be a great host, be friendly, outgoing and easy to talk to.”
What keeps you awake at night?
“The bills; making sure that everything is paid for and my biggest specific worry is doing an event and no body knows about it- I have to make sure we promote things well.”
And how DO you promote events and the pub itself?
“We do a lot of Social Media, we have a great Facebook page, Twitter and then we use the traditional blackboards outside too.”
When have you solved an awkward situation with a customer?
“Well, we had a major issue once when a lad came in wearing a Southampton scarf for a bet on a match day- he nearly got killed; it took a lot of persuasion and tact from my part to get him out of the pub alive and then convince the other customers not to chase after him.” I don’t think he’ll be doing that again!
So what’s next for Steve and The Shepherds Crook?
“I want to keep going with what we’ve got, we want to push forward and improve our YoY’s – this is our 4th consecutive year of double digit growth, so I want to keep investing in the venue, in mid-week entertainment and improving our overall offer”.
Play up Pompey indeed!