Food News:

Cre­at­ing the right en­vi­ron­ment is the key to suc­cess at The Fleece

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - MARK TAY­LOR

De­spite scoop­ing awards in the two pubs they have run to­gether, Karen Mc­geoch and Rod Undy deny hav­ing a ‘win­ning streak’, putting their suc­cess down to some­thing far more fun­da­men­tal.

“It’s just sheer hard work and a will to get things right,” says Karen. “That and a de­sire to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that cus­tomers want and en­joy.”

Karen and Rod took over The Fleece at Hilles­ley in Septem­ber 2016 and af­ter just 20 months, they won Glouces­ter­shire pub of the year from CAMRA.

They won the equiv­a­lent re­gional award when they ran Mum­bles Ale House in Wales, and th­ese two ac­co­lades are all the more im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the fact the cou­ple have only been run­ning pubs for less than four years.

Prior to work­ing in the pub in­dus­try, Rod was an en­gi­neer and worked in sales for mo­tor parts. Karen’s back­ground is in graph­ics and video pro­duc­tion as well as be­ing a qual­i­fied fit­ness in­struc­tor and per­sonal trainer.

“Rod and I had a mul­ti­tude of re­lated and trans­ferrable skills that have been in­valu­able in tak­ing on this busi­ness but the thing that re­ally con­vinced me to move into the in­dus­try was Rod’s pas­sion for ale, it’s con­ta­gious!”

The Fleece is a com­mu­nity-owned pub, which means the share­hold­ers - es­sen­tially the vil­lagers - own the build­ing and Karen and Rod have the lease and own the busi­ness.

Karen says they were ini­tially a lit­tle wor­ried by the fact the lo­cals owned the pub but the de­mar­ca­tion lines are clear so both par­ties know how the bound­aries lie.

As well as Hilles­ley res­i­dents, the pub

at­tracts cy­cling and walk­ing groups, as well as reg­u­lars who live in nearby vil­lages and towns.

Be­cause of their CAMRA awards, they also at­tract a num­ber of real ale fans and that’s where Rod’s pas­sion for beer has paid div­i­dends.

“We’ve de­lib­er­ately in­creased our range of ales to at­tract beer en­thu­si­asts and now have up to seven hand­pumps for ale, as well as an in­creased range of cider.

“Our reg­u­lar ales in­clude Wye Val­ley Butty Bach and our guest ales change on a weekly ba­sis but in­clude ales from award­win­ning brew­eries such as Ar­bor Ales in Bris­tol and Tiny Rebel in New­port.”

The re­cent ar­rival of chef Steve Mc­quigg has also seen the in­tro­duc­tion of new food menus, al­though the own­ers don’t want it to be­come a gas­tropub as such.

“Food is im­por­tant and it’s got to be of a high stan­dard, but what Rod and I have a big bug­bear about is that so many ex-pubs have be­come restau­rants, where the em­pha­sis is to­tally on food and not about the am­bi­ence of the pub en­vi­ron­ment.”

“We try our best to keep prices down so our homemade burg­ers are £10.95, beer­bat­tered cod and chips is £10.50 and sir­loin steak is £14.95. We also do a kids’ menu for £5.50 to en­cour­age fam­i­lies.”

With long-term plans of per­haps adding ac­com­mo­da­tion to the pub, Karen and Rod have plenty of am­bi­tions for The Fleece but they say its suc­cess is down to of­fer­ing cus­tomers what they want, from well-kept beer and good value to reg­u­lar cof­fee morn­ings and open mic nights.

“A lot of our cus­tomers com­ment on the great at­mos­phere when they walk in to our pub and I think the recipe for any suc­cess is the fact we en­gage with our com­mu­nity, serve the best prod­ucts pos­si­ble and make sure the cus­tomers en­joy them­selves.”

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