Joe Cussens, founder and managing director of The Bath Pub Company, talks about the challenges of the Christmas period, what his venues will be doing differently in 2017 and the secrets to a successful office party
When Joe Cussens began selling advertising space in The Publican magazine in 1994, he never dreamt that one day he would be the managing director of a pub company in the South West of England. Fast-forward 23 years and the entrepreneur now operates four successful sites in the city of Bath (Marlborough Tavern, Chequers, Hare & Hounds and Locksbrook Inn).
Cussens opened his first venue, the Marlborough Tavern, with business partner and old school friend Justin Sleath in 2006. Just over a decade on and all four sites are flourishing. “It’s to do with our great team,” explains Cussens. “We offer three things: good food, friendly service and a welcoming pub atmosphere. It is the hallmark of our pubs, and it’s what we’ll be offering this Christmas.”
The Christmas period is very important for all eateries in the industry, says Cussens. “To be a successful food and drink operation, you have to deliver an excellent Christmas offering. It has to be affordable for the customer but deliver a profit. If you get it right it’s a win for everybody.”
This year, the Bath Pub Company is evolving its menu and making some of its Christmas dishes more affordable. The business, explains Cussens, has “invested in Christmas” and will be building on that every year so it “gets better and more memorable”.
The key to hosting a successful Christmas party, according to Cussens, is organisation. His advice for event planners is to find a restaurant that they like the vibe of. Service and atmosphere, he says, is also vital. “If you’re well looked after and the venue knows what it’s doing, you’ll have a fantastic time. A Christmas party is less about the food and more about the social event. If you can find a venue with a buzzing vibe and staff who are able to provide a top-notch service, it’s going to be a success.”
Hospitality is a competitive sector, says Cussens, and it is crucial to stand out from the crowd. So what is The Bath Pub Company doing differently this Christmas?
“We are doing a deal for those booking parties, where drivers drink for free. If someone has been lumbered with driving a big group of people, it can be very dull just drinking mineral water so we try and make it a little more enjoyable for them.” The company will also be giving a gesture present to the party organiser. “For us, it’s about the small touches and making it special.”
Looking to 2018, Cussens is hoping to open another site. The business will also be reinvesting in its current venues. “We are constantly improving and making sure we maintain a competitive advantage. If you are standing still you are going backwards, so we always challenge ourselves to do better.”
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS… JOE CUSSENS
• I’m not hung up on material goods. I just want a happy family round me and everyone to be healthy.
• I enjoy a glass of good wine and a Cognac or single malt, which I never usually drink, but it’s a really nice treat at Christmas time.
• I would like our new site, opening in 2018, to be as successful as the rest of our pubs.
The Bath Pub Company hosts parties for two to 100 people and can be hired out from the end of November until Christmas Eve. For more information, visit thebathpubcompany.com