Sunday, 18 August 2013

Trials and tribulations!

This is going to be a very honest blog today, I often use this blog to 'advertise' the Victoria Inn and there is no doubt that a blog is what many people use for just that purpose! However, when I started this blog almost 5 years ago, it was very much about MY journey as a landlady and the trials and tribulations of a career change (at an advanced age).

As an individual I've always been highly competitive and have always held high standards in my working life, and I like to think that it's mostly a good trait - certainly many customers over the years have said what 'a tight ship we run', how 'well organised the pub is', and certainly the growth of the business to much extent gives those remarks credence. 

So it was something of an upset when we received our Taste of the West award the week before last. As you can see, I've proudly put it at the top of the page (it's also now on our website) but actually at the time I was totally and utterly gutted!! I fully expected us to have been awarded a Silver at the very least................

Do you know how upset I was - I went home, wailed on good friends shoulders and then opened a bottle of wine! In the lunch hour!!!! Jeez!!
But once I'd had a day or two to digest the news and read the report for the umpteenth time and re-read the accompanying e mail for the 20th time, I realised we'd actually done quite well on our first attempt - but you know what? Quite well doesn't cut it for me.

So after a period of reflection, staff avoiding eye contact with me (!) and soul searching talks with each other and our valued members of staff we've instigated a number of plans to ensure (hopefully) a Silver next year in the TOT awards as well as more success in any other competitions we enter. But also to ensure complacency in the business is vanished, customers will hopefully appreciate our commitment to achieving the best for them as well as challenging ourselves and our staff to succeed and succeed and succeed.

We acknowledge as a business in Salcombe and in the pub business generally, we do extraordinarily well (particularly in a business where pubs are still closing every single day) we have many loyal customers (& now they are friends) who come in every time they're on holiday or visiting their holiday homes) often many times a week or so, we have a good following of locals - particularly in the more mature / couple bracket, and this summer we've once again broken all existing records for meals cooked and people served (with very few complaints!).  We are still No 1 on the dreaded Trip Advisor, and feedback from customers is usually very good, but, like any feedback, this TOT Bronze Award has given us the opportunity to look at our business and make changes where we think best.

This week has seen torturous meetings with the Chefs (trust me, NO-ONE in the entire world hates criticism more than Chefs!!) and a bit of a reality check.  But, once ego's had been lovingly restored and personal issues were extracted from the mix, then as usual my guys (& Gal) stepped up to the challenge.
  • From the 10th September we will be introducing fortnightly menus, and those menu's will be reduced by about 5 items - this will give Chefs the scope for their growth in cooking - not just cooking the same dishes week in week out, but also more importantly it will give our customers the opportunity to enjoy really great food but still at reasonable prices   
  • We will also be changing our Specials board to be more 'Special'  - that DOESN'T mean more expensive - it just means more what I've said and there will be changes made almost daily according to what Fish is available. We will only have 4 specials a day with 5 at the weekends
  • We use fantastic local West Country produce and we want to turn the spotlight back on to the X-Factor of great fresh produce with great flavours and beautiful presentation 
  • We're going to put the 'WOW' back into Sunday lunches but still keeping them at £10.50 Watch this space!!
  • SOH and I are engaging a management consultant to help us look at our business through fresh ideas and help coach us to develop even stronger as a business - we've done this once on a one off basis and it really helped, so we're excited by this!
  • We're also employing a 'Mystery Shopper' at regular intervals to ensure our quality, consistency, customer service and VFM is always at a high level (almost anyone can be a mystery shopper - so if you fancy it, contact me, the broader scope of the customer the better)
So all in all, achieving the Bronze standard for Taste of the West IS a great coup, I am grateful to Taste of the West for having been awarded it and I'm equally grateful that it's given us the opportunity to review our aims and aspirations for the business and we both feel re-vitalised and excited by changes we are putting into place on the food front for the Victoria Inn.

In terms of the business itself - planning permission has been given for HUGELY EXCITING changes to the building - and when I know more about the whys, how and when - then I'll tell YOU!!!

I hope this blog post has been a bit of an insight for you and I'll write again shortly...................

Liz x


Bill Lapthorn said...

Liz, I think you are being rather hard on yourself. I don't come to Salcombe often now but when I do I usually look in. I have enjoyed delicious meals in The Victoria and recommend it to visiting friends.
A Bronze award is marvellous so be proud of your achievements! Congratulations - Bill Lapthorn

Liz said...

Thank you Bill - you're most generous with your comments.
Liz x