Last year, Justin Moore bought the freehold of The Vine Inn in Goudhurst, Kent. One year later, he talks to Pub & Bar about his experiences thus far
What was your background before taking on the pub?
I had no experience in the trade whatsoever. I’d been working in the financial services sector for 30 years. I decided that I needed a change from the commuting and the work, so I started thinking about what I could do outside my work and keeping local to where I live.
What drew you to the pub?
The Vine came up and it had been a slightly problematic pub over the past few years with multiple owners and multiple tenants. I thought it had the potential to be a successful pub in the middle of this lovely village if it was managed correctly and had the right offer. It’s a beautiful 17th century building with lots of scope.
What changes did you make?
We looked at it from a multiple facet perspective. You can’t just focus on the wet side, you’ve got to think about eaters as well – and not just regular eaters but ones who are willing to travel.
The previous owners had spent a lot of money on the layout of the pub, with new fixtures and fittings. They’d extended the kitchen and put in lots of expensive equipment; they’d put in new flooring and revamped the toilets. So it was really just cosmetic changes that I had to do to make the pub feel warmer and a little more inviting to my personal tastes. There are two floors. Upstairs, we have a big dining area and a space we can use as a cocktail lounge. Downstairs is more the pub area.
We also bought a small parcel of land at the back of the pub, which meant we could create a courtyard garden out back.
How has your first year been?
Eventful! I don’t think anything prepares you for such a change in career. I’m focusing my attention on a day to day basis on totally different things to what I was doing before, and then there’s the whole hospitality side of things – dealing with the general public.
The pub had been closed for 15 months when we opened, so we had to start from scratch, building up a food reputation and a drinking reputation as well. It’s taken longer than I thought to build that up, but we’re now the pub where people feel it’s their local and they feel comfortable coming in for a drink. That’s down to the staff and the fact that I’m here.
What lessons have you learned?
I’m working far longer hours than I anticipated. As the landlord, I’ve got to be seen to be here and that surprised me. People go to a pub to see the landlord.
Another challenge was staffing. That whole process of selecting the right people to get the job done is a constant challenge. Once you’ve got the right people it’s then about keeping them focused and motivated.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got to start turning a profit soon. The costs associated with the building are higher than I thought they would be, even though I’m a qualified accountant. It’s a tough business, but if we can create a success out of this I would certainly think about looking for another option. I don’t think that will be for at least another year or two – I’d want two years’ trading under my belt first.
The Vine Inn was sold by Christie & Co.