The New Inn: building a family business

This week my sister reopened her pub, The New Inn Middleton Cheney, having obtained tenancy and held a launch party to celebrate! This was a big milestone in her business plan and the start of a new chapter. I couldn’t be more excited and proud. The pub has gone from strength to strength over the last 3 years, becoming the centre point of the village where friends and family gather to catch up, celebrate and have a good time. In this blog, I explore the history of the pub, my sister’s takeover and what has made it a success to date.

The history of our local pub

I grew up in Middleton Cheney, a small village in Oxfordshire. I always remember heading down to our local pub (The New Inn) as a family to meet friends for food and a catch-up. My favourite dish the cauliflower cheese and leek gratin with chips… so delicious albeit probably not that healthy given the cheese! I started my first job as a waitress there at age 14 and both my sister and mum worked there at various points meaning we got to know the pub, and the locals, very well! I had friends in bands who’d play on a Friday night and it became a bit of staple in everyday life. There’s nothing quite like a good local pub!

Unfortunately, the pub changed hands several times whilst I was at college and university and it started to lose its sparkle and community feel. I rarely went in and people we know started to seek out other pubs in the local area to visit instead. This was really sad but also a bit of an eye-opener to how tricky it can be to run a pub and the importance placed on creating an environment that customers enjoy so that they keep returning.

Fast forward to 2019 and the pub is flourishing. So, how did my sister turn it around?

The 3-year journey 

Almost 3 years ago, my sister told me she was thinking about putting together a business plan to take over our local village pub and I couldn’t have been more excited! Given our history, with the pub, it seemed like the perfect plan. Bored with her 9 – 5 job, she went in search of a new challenge. Her experience working in various pubs gave her a great grounding to make this work and so we were excited when she and her partner were successful in their application.

I may be biased but in my mind, it’s gone from strength to strength regaining status as a family-friendly pub hosting special events such as a summer festival and ‘Breakfast with Santa’ as well as live music and a pub quiz. Just 1 year into running the pub they were awarded Pub of the Year 2017 by the Banbury Guardian (as voted for by the public) and have just been featured in the Good Beer Guide 2020.

It’s been an interesting journey so far with plenty of learnings around what does and doesn’t work but I think it’s safe to say that the pub is now recognised by locals as a great place to drink and catch up with friends. It has also become a somewhat family-run business with both my sisters, brother and mum all working there!

Which leads me to this next chapter. They’ve just got tenancy of the pub meaning they’re able to really make The New Inn their own, including the launch of a new menu. Head chef, John Tipson, who has a great reputation in the area has designed a new homemade menu using locally-sourced ingredients and it’s delicious! Having only reopened on Thursday it’s been fully booked since and it is lovely to see the locals supporting the launch. I think this is going to be a real turning point for the pub providing the missing part of the puzzle … GREAT food.

They’re also supporting local artist Melanie Charles by displaying some of her canvas prints of farm animals and more for sale. The prints are absolutely brilliant, adding character to the pub, and it’s a great initiative to provide support to other local businesses – something that is so important for the survival of them.

How does marketing fit in?

Marketing plays an integral role in business to build awareness and attract customers. To date the pub has relied on word of mouth, customer reviews and a little bit of advertising to encourage existing and new customers to come through the doors. The relaunch provided the perfect opportunity to review the pub’s marketing approach and refresh this. With that in mind, I designed a new marketing strategy with my sister that focuses on the relaunch of the pub and the new menu to bring in old, existing and new customers alike.

This has involved a relaunch of the website, social media channels including adding Instagram to the channel mix and putting out some adverts in local magazines to launch the new menu and advertise the function room that is available to hire.

It’s early in the process but changing just a few things has already made an impact and I’m excited to see how I can play my part in helping the business to grow!

Success factors

I’m sure there are many factors at play when thinking about what has made the pub a success but here are a few of my thoughts on the things that have really made a difference.

  • My sister! She is known and loved by a lot of the locals having grown up in the village which immediately puts customers at ease and she puts her all into the business which shines through in every aspect.
  • The community feel. Middleton Cheney was really lacking a good family-friendly pub and so this was the focus when she took over. As well as offering food and drink she screens sports, puts on live music, a pub quiz and special events such as Breakfast with Santa to ensure there is plenty on offer for everyone.
  • Regular communication. Keeping up regular communications with customers via online channels such as Facebook has meant that the pub can let customers know about special events and offers and they can listen to customer feedback and act on this which is crucial to success.

The next few months will be really exciting for my sister and the pub to see how the launch of the new menu goes. If you’re in the area and fancy popping in then we’d love to see you! Check out the website and follow us on Facebook & Instagram (@newinnox17) for updates.

If you would like to receive updates from my blog then you can sign up via email at the bottom of this page (on mobile) and to the right (on desktop).