javbank.com

Average service? Don’t believe everything you read

May 3rd, 2016 | Posted in:

There can’t be many people who would launch a new pub and restaurant business by making a virtue of ‘average service’ and even telling customers to expect it on large billboards on the way inside – but Jonathan Wengel is that man, even if he doesn’t really mean it.
The 48-year-old came up with the novel idea as a way to get people talking about his latest venture as licensee of The Cross Stobs Inn in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire – and it certainly seems to be working.
He says, “It’s really just to show that we don’t take ourselves too
seriously and to underline the relaxed atmosphere. I thought it might be an interesting way to promote the business and it’s working.”
In fact, given Jonathan’s enthusiasm for the place, an old coaching Inn dating back to the 17th century, and his attention to the little details, it seems far more likely that the service will be top notch.
The dad-of-three took on the private lease of the pub last December and prides himself on having closed the venue just once since then – on Christmas Day – despite carrying out a £25,000 refurbishment.
He says, “We were closed on December 25, which is what had always happened previously, but I vowed then that it would be the last day we were ever closed and I’ve stuck to that. When we were painting we shut off areas and traded in other parts of the pub and then switched about.
“The place is looking great now and it’s only going to get better.
It’s great to see peoples’ faces when they see the changes that we’ve made – the reaction has been really positive and the staff are really into it as well.
“I’ve been holding off on the marketing until we were really, really
happy with the product in terms of the venue itself and the menu but from this month it’s going to be marketing, marketing, marketing – flyers through every door, adverts in the local press and so on. I can’t wait.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.50.03
The Stobs might be Jonathan’s first solo venue but he is an old hand when it comes to the trade, having run a string of pubs including the Fox & Hounds in Houston, Renfrewshire, for 15 years when it was owned by his family.
After leaving school he studied hotel catering and institutional
management at Glasgow College of Food Technology, then joined Thistle Hotels as an assistant manager and then food and beverage manager. In 1995 he joined The Old Manor Hotel in Bridge of Allan, owned by ex-footballer Terry Butcher and his wife, Rita, and was there for two and a half years before heading to Sydney, Australia, for a change of scene.
There he worked as a sous-chef at a restaurant called The Pig and the Olive which had lots of seafood on its Australasian-style menu.
Jonathan says: “They did some fantastic gourmet pieces, great salads – things were very simple, very fresh. In fact the one thing that I use from there is the dressing for our salads, which is fresh lemon and olive oil.
“I was a frustrated chef and I’m still a frustrated chef. I’ve always
been interested in menu design and dish design and am still happy to step in and help out in the kitchen if necessary.”
Jonathan was all set to stay on in Australia when his brother Carl
phoned to ask him to come back and run the bar and kitchen side of things at The Fox so that he could focus on setting up the Houston Brewery in late 1997.
He says, “I said I’d do it for a year but 15 went by and I was still
there. It was a tremendous time and it was a different time compared to today. Pubs were busier, people were drinking outside their homes a lot more and supermarkets weren’t selling alcohol so cheaply, or the variety that they do now.  At the time we were really concentrating on food because drink sales were holding their own, albeit without huge growth, while growth on the food side was phenomenal.”
Jonathan’s love of all things culinary stood him in good stead and The Fox soon had a fantastic reputation for its meals. At its height, five chefs worked there full-time and the pub turned over £10,000 in food sales a week.
When The Fox was eventually sold Jonathan joined pub firm Mitchells & Butlers in May 2013, working as general manager at The Lord Lounsdale in Paisley and then The Pullman Tavern in Kilmacolm for two years before he spotted an advertisement for The Stobs last September.
He says, “I knew about the place but I hadn’t been in for quite a
while, or heard anything about it or what it was doing. I was looking to do something different and when I saw it advertised I felt it ticked a lot of boxes.
“We visited it at every time of day and it didn’t seem to be trading
that well so I thought it was a huge risk but I thought the potential
far outweighed the risk. It was almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a private lease which was very important to me and location-wise it was ten minutes away from home and it was pretty perfect in terms of what I wanted.”
Jonathan admits there were plenty of discussions at home with wife Helen, a primary school teacher, and their three kids – Eve (13) and two boys Max (11) and Rudi (five) before they decided to go for it.
He says, “There was a lot of excitement, but huge trepidation as well – we’ve pretty much poured everything we’ve got into it.”
After a brief period to take stock, Jonathan embarked on a series of changes at The Stobs. Out went the standard pub menu of lasagne and chilli and in came pork belly, schnitzel, crayfish, and their ‘soon to be famous’ Haggis sausage rolls. The meat is supplied by local butchers Phelps, who are based in Paisley.
Jonathan also insists on serving hand-cut chips because he believes they taste so much better – although he jokes that the chefs hate him for it.
He says, “We wanted to do something that was a bit different, a bit more original, with the menu. Our aim is to keep the price point relatively low while serving great tasting fresh food. I don’t think we’ve made too many mistakes so far although Barrhead was not ready for lamb kidneys on toast, which was one of the dishes on my first menu. It’s about trial and error.”
He recently signed a deal with Tennents to supply their beers and also stocks real ales from The Kelburn Brewing Company, based in Paisley as well as around 30 whiskies including island malts, Speysides and Bourbon. In terms of decor, Jonathan did away with a series of photographs of oil rigs in favour of pictures of Highland cows –  a theme more in keeping with what was once a rural location and likely to be popular with the punters.
Hidden treasures, including a brass newspaper rack lost behind the TV screen and a fabulous Guinness mirror tucked behind a fruit machine were unearthed during the refurbishment and have been reinstated.
New brown leather chairs and benches, which are being supplied by Walker Contracts in Lenzie, will give the dining area a smart but relaxed feel and CO2 Design in Paisley came up with the pub’s new logo. Outside the large beer garden has been spruced up and there are toys for the kids and plans to introduce rabbits and guinea pigs too. While the building is not without its challenges – including the fact that the cellar floods when it rains heavily – it offers huge potential for the future. A disused nightclub could be turned into function rooms and there is also a shop which closed in January and could easily be re-instated.
But for now Jonathan is happy to focus on The Stobs itself.
He says, “This is very much a pub for families to come to but we’ve also gone in for the whole separate theming idea  – so ladies can drink Prosecco in the lounge, kids can play out in the garden, families can eat in the dining room and guys can watch football in the bar or hang out in the pool room. We’re trying to appeal to everyone – from 0 to 100 – and I think you’re mad if you don’t.”
Aside from the familiar licensee concerns around the impact of the smoking ban and drink drive laws, Jonathan is optimistic about the future. He says, “The trade always bounces back. Good operators will always survive and people are always going to dine out. “I don’t think we will ever be finished because we will always be changing or moving forward, improving hopefully.”
If Jonathan’s approach to his customers is anything like his energetic approach to the refurbishment has been, then roll on the ‘average service’.

The following two tabs change content below.

DRAM News Team

Editor at DRAM Magazine
DRAM magazine is Scotland’s leading monthly licensed trade magazine. It has been dedicated exclusively to the on-trade in Scotland for the past 23 years. It is independently owned, edited and published in Scotland. The DRAM is innovative, creative and original. First with the news, and the people in the news. Covering all the latest information on pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels in Scotland.

Latest posts by DRAM News Team (see all)


Dunnet Bay Distillery launches winter edition Rock Rose Gin

Tue 12th December 2017

Dunnet Bay Distillery, the UK’s most northerly mainland distillery, has revealed its final seasonal release of the year, Winter Edition Ro... Read more.

Nacho Novo opens NN10

Tue 12th December 2017

Rangers legend Nacho Novo is to open his own bar in Glasgow’s Paisley Road West. Situated on the site of the old Angels bar, NN10 – Nach... Read more.

Mediterranean move for Sloan and Gizzi

Tue 12th December 2017

Paul Sloan and Mario Gizzi have opened Mezzidakia, a new Mediterranean fusion restaurant next to Chaakoo in Glasgow’s St. Vincent Street. ... Read more.

Gaucho opens in Scotland

Tue 12th December 2017

Gaucho Group has opened its first Scottish branch of the Argentinian-steak house brand in Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s Square. The £1.5 mill... Read more.

Design Focus: White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar

Tue 12th December 2017

When it comes to direction, Mark Fraser and Michael Spink of The Compass Group don’t seem to have any problem working out which way they a... Read more.

Licensee Interview: Michael Kilkie and Neil Connolly

Tue 12th December 2017

Chef Michael Kilkie and bar operator Neil Connolly are no strangers to winning awards, and the two slick operators are going for gold with t... Read more.

Design Focus: Inn Deep

Fri 8th December 2017

Inn Deep, which is situated right beside the River Kelvin in Glasgow’s West End, is a real labour of love for managers Amy Williams, H... Read more.

Admiral Taverns deal completes

Fri 8th December 2017

C&C Group and Proprium Capital Partners have finalised their investment deal with Admiral Taverns, in partnership with Admiral Taverns&#... Read more.

Nam Tuk Tram Stop

Fri 8th December 2017

Nam Tuk Tram Stop is a quirky pan-Asian restaurant which has just opened at the foot of Byres Road in Glasgow. This new restaurant – t... Read more.

Design Focus: Drum & Monkey

Fri 8th December 2017

The problem with refurbishing a classic pub like Glasgow’s Drum and Monkey is, how do you keep its charm but bring it up to date and g... Read more.

Design Focus: Diablo Loco

Fri 8th December 2017

If you want a bit of cheering up, the newest venue from The Signature Pub Group could be just the thing. Diablo Loco is a bright and cheerfu... Read more.

Heineken signs deal for Cruzcampo with LWC

Wed 6th December 2017

Heineken has signed a new, exclusive Brand Agency import contract with LWC for Cruzcampo in the UK. Neil Williamson, Head of Sales for Expor... Read more.

Balvenie releases Compendium Chapter 3

Wed 6th December 2017

The Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 3: Secrets of the Stock Model has been released. Comprised of five extremely rare single cask single mal... Read more.

A winning team – David & Kirstie Stein

Tue 5th December 2017

Business is in David Stein and his sister Kirstie’s blood – the brother and sister team not only run an award-winning butchers, David St... Read more.

10 Dollar Shake mixes it up with Salt & Sauce and Melt for new oil & gas events

Tue 5th December 2017

Aberdeen-based drinks company 10 Dollar Shake, has teamed up with caterer, Salt & Sauce, and a local grilled cheese toastie shop, Melt, ... Read more.

New Italian in Bearsden

Tue 5th December 2017

Carlo Andreucetti has opened Amici di Carlo in Bearsden. The restaurant and delicatessen not only provides a dine-in experience but also pro... Read more.

Gordon & MacPhail launch new online store

Tue 5th December 2017

Gordon & MacPhail has launched a new online platform, which aims to enhance its customers’ digital experience while helping the brand ... Read more.

Social media provides sales boost for Tennent’s but C&C’s profit drops

Tue 5th December 2017

Tennent’s owner C&C Group has seen a drop in operating profits of 4.9% to €50.5 million for the six months ended August 31, with rev... Read more.

Admiral Taverns & G1 partner to buy 29 pubs from Heineken

Tue 5th December 2017

Admiral Taverns has revealed it has bought, in partnership with G1 Group, 29 pubs from Heineken’s pub arm, Star Pubs & Bars. G1 Group ... Read more.

Piccolino opens in Edinburgh

Tue 5th December 2017

Luigi Aseni, the man behind Boteco du Brasil has created a new Italian restaurant called Piccolino in Edinburgh at High Riggs St. The new re... Read more.


healthlibr.com