Keeping it in the family
Providing an attractive offering based on ‘good food and the best traditional hospitality’, Anglian Country Inns manages several pub and dining venues located in stunning locations throughout the East Anglian region
The history of Anglian Country Inns (ACI) began two decades ago when the now chairman of the company, Cliff Nye, purchased The Lobster Pot pub in Brancaster Staithe, during August 1996. Although the venue featured stunning views of the north Norfolk coastline, the pub itself was very run-down and in need of refurbishment. Cliff reverted the pub back to its previous name, The White Horse and redeveloped the site as a welcoming country Inn with 15 guest bedrooms, locals bar and restaurant in an area that is ideal for walkers, sailors, golfers, cyclists, birdwatchers and dog owners as well as holidaymakers, families and special occasion groups. Over the following 20 years ACI has grown to include a total of seven welcoming establishments, with four venues throughout Hertfordshire and three within North Norfolk “The company has continued to grow year-on-year throughout its history and has really grown momentum during the past five years. We now have seven pubs within the Anglian Country Inns group, we simply offer the best in hospitality by making the best of each location and sourcing locally where possible” says Managing Director, James Nye. “On the 19th August we celebrated our 20th Birthday with an oyster and champagne festival at The White Horse and we will be celebrating throughout the year with several smaller events.”
Each ACI establishment offers a different concept. “We have three different dining concepts all offering seasonal locally soured produce. Three Country Inns with rooms, The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, The Kings Head, Letheringsett and The Fox at Willian. The Jolly Sailors and The Cricketers, which offer traditional pub food as well as freshly made stone baked pizzas as a big part of their menus are really geared towards families. Our motto is ‘pizzas, pints and playgrounds’ to provide excellent local pubs,” James reveals. “The Jolly Sailors was recognised as the ‘Family Pub of the Year’ at the Great British Pub Awards during 2015, which was a great national accreditation. The Cricketers was recognised as the BEST Pub & Bar, Hertfordshire at the national Pub & Bar Awards in 2016. The Cricketers offers a friendly, welcome and traditional service with several events and quizzes. Our third concept is our high-street brassieres with cocktail bars at our Water Lane and Hermitage Rd. venues. Again, each offers its own independent menu with fresh food and grills, as well as a large bar that specialise in fine wines and cocktails. These bars operate in town centres meaning that they are slightly different to our other venues, which simply means that we offer the same quality of food to a different market.”
Throughout 2016 the ACI group has enjoyed great success, winning several awards. The White Horse for example, was recognised as Restaurant of the Year TOP TEN, Seafish 2016, East of England Winner, National Pub & Bar Awards 2016, Good Hotel Guide Editor’s Choice 2016, Best Destination Pub Norfolk, Muddy Stilettos 2016 and was also selected by The Times as one of the top venues for seafood in the country. Additionally during March 2016, it was announced that the multi-award winning ACI pub group was a finalist for the ‘Best Food Offer’ (2-50 sites) Publican Awards. The company has been shortlisted in this category four times consecutively up until 2016, winning the award outright on two occasions. The Publican Awards celebrate the achievements of leading pub companies across a range of categories that reflect the products and services of the British pub estate. The Best Food Offer accolade is awarded to businesses that deliver a successful food service across their estate, with food as a key part of the company’s total sales. “It is amazing to have been short listed again for the Best Food Offer. The whole team across the ACI estate put their hearts into the business and this is recognition of their incredible hard work. It was a seriously tough category this year and we were up against the best in the country,” James exclaims. “It is such an honour to have been named a finalist in the industry’s most sought after awards. Thanks must not only go to The Morning Advertiser, their judges and sponsors but most importantly to the ACI dedicated team of staff.”
ACI also operates Brancaster Brewery, which takes its name from Brancaster Staithe, a North Norfolk village steeped in brewing history. Located in the heart of prime barley growing terrior, brewing in the region dates back as far as to Roman times. Since taking over control of the leasehold of The Jolly Sailors pub during February 2009, which included inheriting its brewery, the Nye family have concentrated on returning the pub to its former glory with sympathetic restoration and reinstating the brewery. Brancaster Brewery is a five-barrel brewery and produces small batches of high quality real ale using top quality local ingredients. It produces bottleconditioned ale, rather than cold filtered varieties to ensure that the beer is in peak condition when it reaches the customer.
While the company operates in both traditional pubs and high-street venues, ACI incorporates all of the workings of a modern business. For example, it manages an up to the minute IT system provided by Ideasanvil. “I think that in the current world, it is really important to have the best IT support. All our systems are based around internet connection and our customers also expect access to the internet. Communication is becoming stronger all the time and this is increasingly important in the age of social media. Ideasanvil provides a great service in this respect and we have been working with them for nine years,” James says.
Throughout all of its operations, ACI remains committed to providing the highest levels of quality in its hospitality offer, while leveraging the strengths and advantages of family ownership to create a warm and welcoming experience. This quality will enable ACI to build on its already impressive success and continue to grow into the future. “By operating as a family business, we have a unique insight in the pub industry. We are governed by what we want to do, rather than being influenced by a large corporate entity. The model of family ownership has worked very well for us during the past 20 years, as it has allowed staff to get to know each other very well by sharing this family experience, which definitely helps to create a good working environment,” James concludes. “We are currently adding guest rooms at The Fox in Willian, Hertfordshire and have just acquired The King’s Head in Letheringsett, Norfolk. We are continuing to work on our growth strategy and still have a lot of potential at our existing sites. We have a lot of changes coming up, which will be centred on preserving authenticity. We want to make sure that our service offering is correct, up to the minute and enjoyed by our customers. We are also keen to preserve sustainability and our environmental credentials, while continuing to work with local suppliers.”