Pubs website a net gain
The blackboard advertising a quiz night at the Rivergarden pub in Thorpe St Andrew is one of many promotions organised by pubs across the county to get people into local pubs.
For the Rivergarden the quiz night has proved popular, but landlord Jon Bingham is always trying to think up ideas to pull in the punters and improve his livelihood.
It's the same across the county. Your Evening News has been a strong supporter of pubs in our Love Your Local campaign which aims to get people back into pubs to prevent closures and job losses.
And Jon knows that for local publicans to survive turbulent economic times they need impartial money-saving advice on all aspects of the pub trade from employing staff, to sales and marketing, to business planning and finance.
'Too many good pubs are closing down and it's time someone did something about it,' says Jon who has been landlord at the Rivergarden pub for just over four years.
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'So I've developed an idea to bring together everything anyone needs to run a successful business in the pub trade.'
He is currently setting up a free website offering one-stop-shop information and advice from experts in finance, employment law, health and safety, business planning and support. The site also has a forum where landlords can share their experiences.
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'The idea is to provide a platform where landlords can find all the information they need quickly and easily,' says Jon. 'Examples of what information is on the site include how to write a business plan, a free business health check, finance calculators, samples of contracts of employment and a tried-and-tested bank of insurance companies and traders such as plumbers.
'The site is ideal for people looking at taking their first steps into the pub trade and for those who have been running their own pub for a number of years.'
Jon's experience in the hotel and pub trade holds him in good stead. Having worked in the leisure industry in Manchester and London, he came back to the city he loves to become landlord of the Rivergarden.
'When I came back to Norwich the pub trade was going through pretty turbulent times. There didn't seem to be a week that went by when news of a pub closing down broke.'
Now he says that although pubs are fighting back there is still some way to go before businesses are back to buoyant times.
As well as running the Rivergarden, Jon is co-owner of deli and caf� Wholesome in Swan Lane.
'I love thinking up new ideas to help businesses grow,' says Jon. 'Being a partner in a business such as Wholesome gives me a different focus.'
Now his focus is on developing his website. Alongside the existing user forums, expert advice, supplier information, legalities, business support and trade news, Jon plans to develop a price-comparison section on the site where landlords and pub owners can find the best deals in items such as credit card terminals, insurance and business rates.
'At the moment the companies that sell the things businesses need such as insurance that are on the site are companies that I have used and personally recommend,' says Jon. 'The focus is on local businesses. It's a bit like when a mate asks you if you know of a good electrician and you give him the number of the one you use. Eventually this side of the site will develop to include more local businesses and I'm hoping that this area of the site will be a place where publicans can compare prices and services.'
He is also looking to develop the site to include a buy-and-sell function to enable pub-owners to buy and sell anything from pub fittings to entertainment units for their business.
'Pubs change all the time and perhaps when a building is redecorated the landlord wants to get rid of seating or tables. The site will eventually offer a place where these pieces can be sold to another pub. I'm thinking that it will be like a mini marketplace site where publicans can find items they need and sell the items they don't.'
Jon also wants to set up a regular blog on the site to give people an insight into life behind the bar.
Says Jon: 'When the London riots were taking place earlier in the year blogging sites provided a place where pub-owners could find out exactly what was going on. Although no rioting happened in Norwich, I read some of the blogs aimed at pubs in the areas effected; they gave comprehensive advice on where the riots were so that you could see if your business could be affected, what to do if a riot broke out in your bar, how this could affect your business and advice on where to get support if the worse was to happen.
'This is how I envisage PubPal to evolve into – a place where publicans can get up-to-the-minute news, help and advice on all aspects of their business.
'It's more than just a website – it's a survival tool to help pubs stay open.'
The website should be live within the next few weeks. For more information and to find out how the website can help your pub business visit www.pubpal.co.uk