Seafood Pub Company

Issue 84


Savour the sea

Still in its infancy, the Seafood Pub Company is already taking on major competitors with its commitment to offering quality food at unrivalled value

Founder and managing director of the Seafood Pub Company, Joycelyn Neve’s vision is simple: “To put the produce that I’ve grown up with around me from my dad’s business in front of people, in a relaxed, informal environment.” Realising this vision in 2010, over the last five years Joycelyn has built the Seafood Pub Company up to an award-winning group currently spreading across seven sites around the northwest. “Seafood and pubs are my two favourite things, so bringing them together was an easy concept to come up with,” she says. The Neve family’s fishing roots go back generations and Joycelyn’s father has established a strong reputation and level of experience in sourcing and supplying the best quality produce. Still in its infancy, the company has proven itself on the national stage and remains true to its core values of quality and value for money.
Seafood Pub Co Issue 105b
“Our supplier connections are a huge strength for the business,” explains Joycelyn. “My family’s background is all in fishing and seafood, and we’ve got a lot of family friends in the catering supply industry outside of seafood. Our competition can’t come close to us with what we offer – we’re able to give people good value for money and the wow-factor in terms of quality.” This focus on value for money is complemented by a robust and reactive attitude to the market conditions. “In the midweek and at lunch times people are going out more frequently but are spending less,” Joycelyn highlights. “At the weekend, however, its still very strong. So the versatility of our offers is really important so that people can choose to use us throughout the week and not spend too much money with ten pound lunch offers, or they can come at the weekend when we’ve got some high end specials and top end wines and champagnes. Having a good versatile range of offers means that we’re always busy.”

Aside from the solid public facing side of the business, is the internal team. “I know that internally it is the people that make a business, and the people here are very passionate about it,” continues Joycelyn. Completing the executive team alongside Joycelyn is Andrew McLean, executive chairman, and Antony Shirley, executive chef. Founder of the Devonshire Pub Company, Andrew brings a wealth of acquisition experience, which stands the company in good stead as it continues its successful expansion strategy. Antony has amassed a bank of knowledge and experience in developing menus and setting up restaurants across the country and is now responsible for the Seafood Pub Company’s star dishes.

With seven restaurants currently set up, the company has a view to open 12 new sites over the coming years. “We have a number of areas that we want to get into, and we have people looking constantly for sites,” outlines Joycelyn. “The area’s we’ve got highlighted are North Yorkshire, the Lake District, Cheshire and Merseyside. Predominantly we are looking for pockets of either affluent residential or premium destination sites.” The premium sites are central to the Seafood Pub Company’s up-market offering. One of the company’s highest profile sites, the Assheton Arms, is a grade-two listed building situated in the Lancashire village of Downham. “It’s an absolutely unspoilt village, and probably one of the most beautiful places in the UK,” says Joycelyn. “The company’s ethos of offering an informal service with food that is quality and a bit different still remains, but making sure the sites have all got different personalities, and allowing them to do what’s right for that particular area and building is really important. Once those combinations are right, the sites really fly.”

Aside from the solid public facing side of the business, is the internal team. “I know that internally it is the people that make a business, and the people here are very passionate about it,” continues Joycelyn. Completing the executive team alongside Joycelyn is Andrew McLean, executive chairman, and Antony Shirley, executive chef. Founder of the Devonshire Pub Company, Andrew brings a wealth of acquisition experience, which stands the company in good stead as it continues its successful expansion strategy. Antony has amassed a bank of knowledge and experience in developing menus and setting up restaurants across the country and is now responsible for the Seafood Pub Company’s star dishes.Seafood pub Co Issue 105c

With seven restaurants currently set up, the company has a view to open 12 new sites over the coming years. “We have a number of areas that we want to get into, and we have people looking constantly for sites,” outlines Joycelyn. “The area’s we’ve got highlighted are North Yorkshire, the Lake District, Cheshire and Merseyside. Predominantly we are looking for pockets of either affluent residential or premium destination sites.” The premium sites are central to the Seafood Pub Company’s up-market offering. One of the company’s highest profile sites, the Assheton Arms, is a grade-two listed building situated in the Lancashire village of Downham. “It’s an absolutely unspoilt village, and probably one of the most beautiful places in the UK,” says Joycelyn. “The company’s ethos of offering an informal service with food that is quality and a bit different still remains, but making sure the sites have all got different personalities, and allowing them to do what’s right for that particular area and building is really important. Once those combinations are right, the sites really fly.”

This combination is the key to the business’s changing shape. Joycelyn demonstrates her awareness of the current market and how the company is reacting to it. “Food tourism is becoming a big thing as its becoming more and more peoples’ hobby to stay away. We’ve recently added bedrooms to three of our sites, and we’re revisiting another two sites to add bedrooms on, including The Fenwick near Lancaster. Food tourism is the side of the business that we’re really developing now, so rather than just marketing to a radius of an hour and half’s drive from each site, we are now marketing to the whole of the UK, and situating the pubs in premium destination sites is essential to this. To now be able to bolt the strong reputation we’ve built for food and drink with premium accommodation is changing the shape of the business.”

It is a shift in focus that is already having a positive impact on the company. The Assheton Arms, for instance, has gained its first rosette and was awarded five stars by the AA for its accommodation. Bearing in mind its accommodation was only opened in April 2015, this is a big achievement. “It’s really good to be on their radar,” notes Joycelyn, “and to have an inspection within a month of opening our rooms comes off the back of winning the awards that we do.” Of note the company has been the recipient of Restaurant Magazine’s ‘R200 Pub Company of the Year 2014’ and the Publican’s best food offer, amongst many others. “We are still the new kid on the block going up against some much larger companies that have been trading for ten to 15 years already,” she continues. “Even to be nominated against some these prestigious companies is great, but to win as well is quite humbling. For the team it’s great because we all work very hard and it shows that we’re doing a good job, and it also puts us on a platform to get noticed by the public.”

Despite this success Joycelyn strays clear of complacency. “It’s easy to get distracted by the here and now,” she says. “So making sure we know what is next is really important, because if you’re passionate about what you do its easy to get totally engrossed in it. Now that we’ve got to the size that we are at, we have a really good central team with a strong skill set and we all enjoy working with each other. As we’ve grown we’ve been able to get staff to focus on what they’re good at rather than just a couple of people trying to do everything. This means that we now have the capacity to carry on growing at the speed that we are.” Looking ahead at this growth, over the next year the focus is very much on extending its accommodation offering as this is working in the current market, particularly in the locations it has chosen to situate itself.

Ultimately the strategy for the Seafood Pub Company is illustrative of what it has done to achieve the rapid success it has. “Our vision is to carry on doing what we’re doing,” concludes Joycelyn. “That’s not just opening new sites – it’s not in my nature to just have everything doing well. I always look at things to see what more we can do to be better. It’s about continually looking at the sites to make sure that we can offer the best.” The Seafood Pub Company is very much a success story born out of a passion for food and drink, and the desire to deliver this to the public. The drive comes from a team of experienced and focused people who don’t take their success for granted, but use it to see where they can take the company next. As such, the future looks positive for the company as it continues to deliver high quality food at good value, in a relaxed yet premium atmosphere.


Seafood Pub Company