Failing pub specialists add sixth pub to portfolio

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub, Public house

The Floating Bridge in Dartmouth is the latest project for Quality Inns led by Easton and Alison Hogben
The Floating Bridge in Dartmouth is the latest project for Quality Inns led by Easton and Alison Hogben
Quality Inns, the pub brand launched by the husband and wife team of Easton and Alison Hogben, has added The Floating Bridge in Dartmouth to its list of venues. 

The Dartmouth pub takes the Quality Inns portfolio to six, although the waterside establishment is the only pub outside Gloucestershire for the couple. Four of them are under leasehold while two are freehold. 

The Hogbens' first foray into the pub trade was with The Pilot Inn in Hardwicke in 1985. Since then they have opened and run several venues, many of which were on the brink of failure or were closed when they took over.

The Floating Bridge

Easton saw the advertisement for the leasehold for the Devon pub and having visited the area and pub as tourists and customers the couple decided to take on the challenge while they were still involved with another site.

Alison told BigHospitality the couple took control on 16 April after it had been run for a period of time by a nearby hotel. Hogben said the couple were in the midst of refreshing the building and carrying out a complete kitchen refurbishment before they planned to reopen with more of a balanced food and drink offering.

"Ours are predominantly food houses. We do like local bar trade because that is what keeps your own interest. They do vary from site to site - at the moment The Floating Bridge was wet-led, I don't know what the future holds but I am sure that there is an awful lot more food in the place once you get the systems in and the equipment," she said.

Easton, who is also a chef, will lead the kitchen team initially as no chefs had been working at the pub before the couple took over.

Turnaround

After running The Pilot Inn the couple became specialists at turning around and reviving the fortunes of failing pubs. "Apart from this one I think every single one was bankrupt when we have taken over," Alison said.

Although The Pilot Inn was lost as a result of the 'Beer Orders' decision from the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission the couple moved on to new ventures several times more. "My husband is very ambitious and always wants more. It just escalated really, we got another one up the road that was just an old cider house - so absolutely nothing - and we turned that into a big eating house. We just moved on several times," she added.

Quality Inns is very much a family business as two of the couple's children run individual venues while another two are planning to leave university and school to join the firm full-time.

Much harder

Quality Inns' success has not come without problems; a serious fire at The Four Mile House in Brookthorpe led to its closure for a number of months before opening in April under the new name of Fagin's. So what is the secret to turning around pubs? "Standards are our main thing - our motto is 'quality food, quality people, quality service'. It is keeping your standards high and I think if your offering is good the strong will survive," Hogben said.

Even with the rise of supermarkets and the economic climate Hogben said people still wanted to go out and pubs could succeed but she admitted "It is much, much harder than it used to be."

"You have to be on top of your game, you have to keep changing and doing what people want. You used to open your door and in they all flooded, now you have to do a good food operation and a reasonably priced drink offering but people will still go somewhere," she added.

Related topics: Business, People, Pubs & Bars, Venues

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