Help Our Hospitality: Former pub landlords with 26 years of experience describe industry as ‘a way of life’
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Two former pub landlords, with more than 26 years of experience in the hospitality industry, recently set up a new catering business and have shared their insight for this week’s Help Our Hospitality campaign coverage.
The pair decided to take a step back from the pub in July, almost 12 years on from when they first took over in August 2011.
They decided to put their decades of experience in hospitality and catering to good use, by striving to provide exceptional catering services in their new business venture.
The Village Kitchen Catering offers bespoke menus for any occasion. Whether that is a corporate brunch or a casual buffet, Julia and Michael offer hot and cold options and accommodate any dietary requirements.
The options even extend to afternoon tea buffets, grazing platters, three course menus and Sunday roasts.
The business delivers to Holcot and its surrounding villages, including Moulton, Brixworth, Overstone, Sywell, Walgrave, Old, Boughton and Mawsley.
Julia first started working in the hospitality industry aged 15, waitressing at her local village pub, and Mick began by getting involved in his family’s cafe in Wellingborough Road at the time.
Before taking over The Telegraph Inn in Moulton in August 2011, they ran another pub in Boughton. The pair have lived and worked in Northampton all their lives.
When asked what has kept them working in hospitality for decades, Julia said: “It’s a way of life. It’s the social aspect, meeting new people, and it fitted in with our lifestyle and the children.”
Though Julia worked at Nationwide from 18 to 24 years old, she continued to help out in the pub part-time. When she left Nationwide to be a full-time mother, she returned to working at the pub when the time was right – as it allowed her to be flexible around her family life.
Julia believes it is the “customer side” of hospitality that has evolved the most over the past two-and-a-half decades, with the “tea time pub trade” having fizzled out.
“You don’t really get the drinkers out drinking late anymore,” said Julia. “It’d be kicking out time and the place was empty. There was a total pattern in drinking.”
She believes this came as a result of the pandemic, when people took to building bars and drinking at home – and continued to do so when everywhere reopened as it was more affordable.
Even on weekends, customers were more likely to visit during the day or at lunchtime than in the evening.
At the pubs they ran, the pair offered homemade fresh food and had to charge accordingly.
Julia says some people believed the food was expensive, and it became clear customers were “happy to go for cheap and cheerful” as opposed to “higher end with a better quality of food”.
The decision to move on from the pub stemmed from a mixture of factors – the lease had come up for renewal, the constant increase in the cost of food supplies and alcohol, and the “crippling” utility prices.
For the hours of hard work they were investing, they did not feel they were getting enough out of it anymore.
Not only was Julia running the pub, but she also worked as a chef for the final four years as they struggled to hire kitchen staff.
“We had been in the pub industry for 26 plus years and, in a sense, it’s a 24/7 job,” said Julia. “We were open on Christmas day and all over that period.”
Julia admitted the pair did not have much of a family lifestyle and with their new catering business, they now work from home and have a better quality of life.
Customers have already “gone crazy” and are “loving” their Sunday roast deliveries, commending The Village Kitchen Catering’s “brilliant service”.
Many functions have been booked this week and Julia believes there is now a greater demand for people “wanting to entertain at their homes”.
From what she has heard from customers, this is because some venues do not allow children past a certain time in the evening – which rules out celebrating occasions with all the family.
“It’s also the money side,” added Julie. “People can stay at home, entertain and still have nice food brought to them with no stress and it’s cheaper.”
The business owner does not believe this will convert back to the way it used to be. Though people will always go out for food and drink, she says “alcohol prices will never go down” and venues are paying the consequences for the unprecedented rises.
In her final words, Julia shared what she believes is the key to running a successful hospitality business.
“Good customer service, having a bit about yourself and being able to chat and build relations with regulars,” she said. “Good quality home-cooked food and reasonable prices are the main things.”