The Airedale Heifer does beer. It does lots of different things with beer. And it does them all very well.
Mark is one of the partners in the Bridgehouse Brewery, a craft brewery that, once upon a time, supplied said pub with craft ale. Three years ago, the pub was barely ticking over, but Mark and his brewery partners saw some potential and so, when the opportunity came up, they took the lease, re-built the brewery in the grounds, and then went on to take on four more pubs (three of which are with Punch).
Mark, what’s your USP in this particular pub; is it just the brewing arm or is there more to it?
“The brewery helps us to stand out against other pubs, but with this particular venue, the USP is the atmosphere. This was the first pub we took on and we wanted it to feel comfortable, welcoming; too many pubs don’t focus on making people happy and settled. So that, the brewery and the quality that we insist on throughout the whole operation are our USP’s.”
Tell me about the brewery?
“We brew eight beers as a core range plus we also have a monthly special which is brewed by a competition winner. Through the year we join customers up to our VIP club and then pick a winner to brew their own beer each month. It works for us three-fold; we are slowly building up a customer database to market to, the winner tends to send all their friends and family down here to try the beer that they brewed, plus we’re creating a long term relationship with that customer.
“This week we are starting “corporate beer days”, for local businesses to do the same; turn up, brew their own beer, have a day out of the office. I think it’s going to be very popular! Punch have been really supportive and we’ve worked together to get a good, reciprocal partnership with them.”
Are there any challenges with having a brewery and a pub arm to your business?
“Not really, the pro’s outweigh the cons; the chefs love having access to the brewery; they make beer ice cream, beer-based chutneys; we even make non-alcoholic dog beer!”
FACT – 75% of beer drinkers say that having the option of a “local” beer would make them visit their local pub/bar more often (source, KAMunity, 2016).
What advice would you give to a new publican coming into the industry?
“Learn about diversification, I strongly believe in this day and age that a pub can’t concentrate on one thing, you need to be able to vary your offer.”
Is that why you have a coffee and cake corner and offer?
“Exactly, and let’s be honest, coffee and cake may well make more GP than a pint of lager, so we have to be open to ideas. We also have a focus on community events; a Folk Night (run on the same night as the Cask Ale club, which is a perfect fit!), a book club, charity nights. The only thing that hasn’t worked for us was a James Bond-themed red carpet and casino night. It didn’t sit with the atmosphere of the pub and customers weren’t booking, so at the last minute, we cancelled it and refunded those who HAD booked… which wasn’t that many!”
FACT – 58% of pub-goers state that they would be more likely to visit their local pub if they offered cakes/pastries during the day (source, KAMunity, 2016).
What keeps you awake at night?
“The peaks and troughs of the industry.”
And how do you try to protect yourself from those?
“By making sure that there is always a reason to visit any of our pubs. We are constantly assessing how we are performing compared to the rest of the industry because we supply beer to hundreds of pubs, and so we can compare sales at our venues to that of our customers’.”
Five pubs, a brewery, how do you relax?!
“Ah, well, I tour the world on a motorbike! I’m just back from a trip around Africa that took in Cape Town, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana, I’ve been doing it for years, we’ve done Alaska, Japan, the Arctic, I also hand glide – so basically I pick sports where your mind can’t be anywhere else, you’re forced to relax and concentrate on the matter at hand!”
I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to show any bias in these articles, but I might break this rule just to let you know that I think the Airedale Heifer may be one of the best pubs I’ve ever been to in the quest to bring you Punch’s best in class, long may their success continue!