What does your company do? What products/services does it provide?
The Haven Arms is a local West London pub steeped in history. First built in 1861 the pub has been used for many important community gatherings including inquests and trials. Today the Haven Arms is a place for local people to meet and catch up over a cold pint and a bit of dinner freshly prepared by our Chef. We also cater for parties and provide different ranges of buffets depending on your requirements.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As a local lad having grown up in Ealing and attending St. Benedict’s school, I had known the pub for most of my life. I took the opportunity to become its landlord when it came up for sale last year. I knew that I could put my own stamp on it and make it a fantastic traditional pub for all ages. There are not many real traditional pubs in Ealing, most have been revamped to look old, with The Haven Arms, what you see is what you get – and that’s why I love it!
When did you start up, and what support were you given?
I eventually took it over on the 4th June 2014, it was a completely new career for myself. My family are in the building trade and they have all helped out with all the renovation. The Brewery, Star Pubs have been very supportive and have provided all the training to run a successful pub trade.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
The biggest achievement so far is actually keeping the pub a success, by our records we had a better Christmas this year. We want to improve every year! Our online presence has been a success, with the use of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, all our customers are consistently advised of our latest offering.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
When we took over the pub in 2014 our vision was to take the pub back to its roots – a ‘real’ pub, somewhere for locals to watch sport, meet regulars and enjoy service with a smile. It’s never easy to change the vibe of a pub – and in this particular case the personality of the pub was heavily tied to the previous landlord. The internet has been key to transforming the pub and building a new personality for it. The way the world is, you really do need an online presence, otherwise people don’t know you exist. For us, online was a way to project the pub’s personality and to become the friendly, local pub we wanted to be. On taking over the pub, I commissioned one of the bar team to build a simple website. As a member of the team he had a real feel for the pub and we wanted this to come through on the site. For other small companies thinking about building a website, there’s lots of information on the Do More Online website.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
I think that in any business the quality of the product and customer service is the most important factor. For us our product is alcohol and food. We make sure our beer and food are fresh and served in the way so that a customer feels welcomed and more than satisfied. We strive to go far and beyond customers’ expectations. We learn customer’s names and what their usual is, so that when they come in all they have to do is sit at the bar and it’s ready.
We have a lovely black Labrador, which is probably the cutest and friendliest dog in the world. When she is sleeping in front of the fire you feel so relaxed all your troubles for a short time are forgotten.
We take pride in our business and that’s what differentiates us from other pubs. It’s not a job but a way of life, making new friends.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
When I took on the pub we decided to start a Twitter feed, Facebook page and Instagram feed to tell locals what’s happening at the pub and to promote events. Each platform is the responsibility of a different member of staff, so keeping them updated doesn’t take much time. We’ve seen huge benefits from social media, which is crucial for driving attendance to our events, and has helped contribute to one of the best Januarys ever. For other small companies thinking about making the leap into the digital era, there’s lots of information on the Do More Online website, which we found extremely helpful.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
As well as selling more food and drink, our main goal is to continue to build the pub’s personality as a really friendly, local spot where people enjoy spending their time. A home from home.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Follow your dreams! Any new business venture is a daunting thing, but with a bit of hard work and guidance you can achieve things you never thought were possible. You never know unless you try, and if you don’t try you might regret it for the rest of your life.
What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
I find that being my own manager is the best feeling in the world. In my previous job I used to work really hard but not always receive just reward. Now when I put the work in I am reaping the rewards. Running a pub is very long hours and is 7 days a week all year, so it is not easy. The most satisfying thing about running a pub is the big thank you that you get from the customer, watching them leave very happy.
The Haven Arms is one of a number of small businesses being showcased as part of the Government’s Do More Online campaign which aims to help small businesses improve their digital skills to find more customers, be more efficient, and save money.