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An example of managerial success can be found at Shepherd Neame's Wharf pub at Dartford's Crossway Business Park.
Managers Marc and Tracy Watson started out as rivals but soon teamed up to become one of Shepherd Neame's most effective management duos. Their paths crossed when Marc was working at the Dog and Bear in Lenham and Tracy was working at the Red Lion across the road.
"We were office workers but the lure of the hospitality industry was too great," said Marc. The couple joined Shepherd Neame in 1990 and worked as relief managers at pubs in Brighton, Margate and London before getting their own pub, the Early Bird in Maidstone in 1994.
During this period, Marc learned about finance, customer service, up-selling and motivation through a British Institute of Innkeeping Advanced National Diploma and a number of internal Shepherd Neame training courses. Meanwhile, Tracy concentrated on gaining expertise in food hygiene and food safety.
When the Wharf was built in 1998, Marc and Tracy were keen to be involved and have been running the pub ever since, passing on skills to their team of more than 20 staff, many of whom have been with them since opening day.
Marc said: "We believe in one-to-one communication on a daily basis, not just for team meetings but taking the time to treat people as individuals and to understand them."
After learning his trade in London bars and restaurants, licensee Will Arnold has returned to his home town to take up his dream job - managing the pub where he worked as a chef a decade ago.
“I moved to London and spent six years running wine bars and restaurants,” said Will. “I have always loved food and I have worked in hospitality all my life, except for a season as a snowboard instructor in Banff. Much as I enjoyed it, I knew I had to return to the real world.
“I still kept in touch with my old manager and when he told me he was moving on to another Shepherd Neame pub I got on to the brewery straight away. The Black Boy is a wonderful pub and to be honest this is the only one I would have made the move for. ”Within days of arriving, Will was seeing some familiar faces. “Coming from the town and having worked here before, I know 80% of the customers,” he said. “This is a very friendly place.”
Will has compiled a huge book of recipes and ideas over the years which he uses to add a metropolitan feel to the pub. The Black Boy serves British classics at lunchtime and a light snack menu in the evenings, featuring dishes such as chargrilled chicken and sun dried tomato skewers, honey roasted cocktail sausages and Welsh rarebit.
“All our food is home-made on the premises, including soup and piccalilli,” said Will. “I’ve just appointed a chef who will be cooking dishes from my book of recipes.”
After all those years in restaurants, Will knows his way around a wine list and he has selected a range of wines from around the world to complement the menu. He has also made a point of including a wide choice of wines by the glass – six reds and six whites.
The pub supports local rugby and hockey teams and attracts a bustling crowd thanks to its excellent town centre location. “The bar has a great atmosphere,” he said. “There are no fruit machines or juke box, and we have wooden floors, light mahogany tables and chairs and a couple of sofas. Spitfire cask ale is a favourite with customers and I am looking forward to serving Shepherd Neame’s range of seasonal ales.”
Situated in the heart of London, the Jamaica Wine House attracts a wide array of customers, all of whom make good use of the “Jampot’s” warm welcome and perfectly kept Shepherd Neame ales.
The secret of Lee’s success is a combination of good teamwork – she has a small but dedicated bar staff – a passion for the business and a commitment to maintaining the perfect pint.
The variety of Shepherd Neame ales on offer – such as Spitfire, Bishop’s Finger and Master Brew as well as seasonal ales – is also important as Lee’s clientele comprises an equally varied assortment, from lunching businesspeople and devoted regulars to tourists, many of who stop at the 'Jampot' as part of the City’s walking tours.
But it is perhaps her rewarding relationship with Shepherd Neame that proves to be most important. Lee, who joined the pub in 2010 before taking over as manager in January of this year, said: “When I first joined Shepherd Neame I was surprised how well and how quickly they take you under their wing. There is a real family feel to the brewery that I like. Straight away they were so supportive. ”She concluded: “Shepherd Neame has such a long history and it is great to be a part of the team.”
A chef who has cooked for royalty is rediscovering the quality and variety of Kentish produce as he returns to cook in his home county.
Now back at the New Flying Horse in picturesque Wye, Dougald is relishing the chance to work with the freshest ingredients from the Garden of England.
His dedication to quality and local produce is complemented by Shepherd Neame’s food development team, headed by retail purchasing and development manager Graeme Endacott. In keeping with his work across the brewery’s managed estate, head development chef Simon Howlett worked with Dougald to refine the menu.
Dougald said: “I am very impressed with the quality of the produce from our suppliers – first-class meat and vegetables and especially the fish. When I worked in Norfolk, we sourced fish from boats that were out in the North Sea for seven days at a time. The fish we serve at the New Flying Horse is from Griggs of Hythe and is landed daily.”
As a result, fish features prominently on Dougald’s menus including Hythe Bay Fish Pie using a selection of locally-caught seafood, served with buttered peas; and classic Dover Sole served with broad beans, asparagus and crushed lemon potatoes.
The asparagus being served at the New Flying Horse during the season is sourced from a producer close to the pub, and can be on the plate less than three hours after being cut.
Another quintessentially Kentish dish is New Romney lambs liver, served with wholegrain mustard mash, buttered kale and onion gravy.
Local sourcing and fresh, seasonal produce are important to Doug, and he is also keen to take advantage of the Shepherd Neame pub’s spectacular garden to give customers a unique outdoor dining experience.
The extensive grounds of the New Flying Horse have a very special feature – a recreation of a Chelsea Flower Show winning garden. Julian Dowle’s A Soldier’s Dream of Blighty includes a selection of herbs and vegetables from a wartime seed catalogue selected by the Chelsea Pensioners themselves.
“I have devised a Garden Menu to be enjoyed outdoors at weekends,” said Dougald. “It includes some light dishes and salads as well as barbecue style items such as an oriental mackerel dish, a cut of rump steak, grilled halloumi, kebabs and lamb chops.”
The regular seasonal menus are supplemented each day by a Specials Board which makes the most of what’s fresh and in season. Favourites include Barnsley chop with ratatouille and Jersey potatoes, and pork and paprika casserole served with rice.
Dougald said: “The quality of ingredients available in Kent is exceptional and I am enjoying the challenge of developing a range of dishes that make the most of this top-quality produce.”