The plan for this blog entry was to write it as soon as the dust had quite literally settled after our refurbishment at the beginning of November…..as you can see, the best laid deadlines very often go awry!

Ever since we have taken over at The Angel, we have had an idea in our minds of what needed to be done…it is a beautiful historic building, but refurb wise had not really been touched in at least 15 years, maybe 20, and when Hook Norton bought the building nearly 10 years ago, modern health and safety laws had seemingly passed it by!  Talking to people at Hooky one of the first tasks was to install emergency lighting and fire alarms just to make the building compliant.  And that really was the start of the ‘modern’ Angel’s journey.

We first went to The Angel as customers, before we even contacted Hooky, and we were full of ideas of what we could do to improve it.  These plans were quickly shelved once we realised the kitchen was just not capable of producing the quantity and type of food we wanted to.  Hooky put in a brand new extraction unit, and we bought new equipment, and just like that….our initial refurb budget disappeared!!  Developing our dream pub was not going to be a quick job!

The B&B rooms for guests were always a development area for us, but with no bookings in the diary when we took over it was not really an immediate priority, given the amount of work we had to develop the wet and food sales.  It is such a valuable additional revenue stream for pubs nowadays, but my goodness, customer expectations have risen!  With the rise of Travel Lodges and Premier Inns to name just two, that provide really good quality accommodation at rock bottom prices, the pressure is on to provide guests with something that really stands out.

So – rooms came next after the kitchen.  Our first work to do was to put new carpets throughout, and redecorate, and in 2014, Hooky installed brand new bathrooms and a new hot water system for us.  This really was getting to be essential work, as the antiquated plumbing system was not designed to service a whole pub, three letting rooms and a staff flat, let alone provide the high pressure, piping hot water that is expected as standard from guests nowadays.  The results were stunning, and made a real improvement.  The developments are still ongoing though – improvements to technology in the pipeline (TV/DVD, ipod docks, Nespresso machines…….), and the inevitable upgrades to beds/mattresses/linen as expectations soar ever higher.

In tandem with this, Hooky also gave the whole exterior of the pub a fresh look – with new signage, painting and general maintenance – luckily we are involved with a brewery who value their buildings and tenants and try and help you develop over the years.

So you can see, by the first week of November, just shy of our fourth anniversary…it had taken some while to get to the point of being able to turn the pub interior into what we had always envisaged!  The day to day running of a busy pub, plus the fact I had had a baby in the time elapsed since we took over (which depletes the brain cells at the best of times!), meant that what little creativity I ever possessed had all but disappeared.  So, we engaged the lovely Helen and Jane from JH Designs www.j-hdesigns.com who unlike many designers (who come in and charge an exorbitant fee just for the privilege of a glimpse into their ‘vision’, before taking off on their merry way), they worked with us, sourcing furniture, working with our selected tradesmen and listening to what we wanted.  Our brief was quite simple – we wanted to make more use of the small space we have (we are always turning people away because we can’t fit them in and as a business owner, that is heartbreaking!), we wanted our customers to be more comfortable, and we had an idea in our mind of what we wanted it to look like which somehow Helen and Jane managed to translate into what we would have done if either of us were creatively minded!

The 'before' image

The ‘before’ image

We gave ourselves a mere four days to complete this work (and some boring but necessary electrical work…..it always thrills tradesmen to suddenly have their power cut off!), as we didn’t want to miss the weekend trade.  We commissioned some new bench seating, made by the very talented Tom Buckingham Tom Buckingham Twitter and then it was all hands on deck.  On Friday morning, as our deliveries all started coming in, the look of amusement on the driver’s faces as we explained we would be open by 6pm was vaguely worrying…..as we and three waitresses spent about four hours on our hands and knees scrubbing the floors!  Anyway, we managed it…..we opened by 6pm!  Only the toilets weren’t completely decorated, but I could live with that, and we’ve been finishing the little bits since then, but overall we are just chuffed to bits.

New restaurant with the stairs opened up

New restaurant with the stairs opened up

New bench seating and lighting in the restaurant

New bench seating and lighting in the restaurant

We hope we have made The Angel a nicer place to be, which is what we are constantly trying to do.  Whether it is about extra cushions to make someone more comfortable or making sure the fire is always lit so it is nice and cosy.  Living in the area we do, there is a LOT of money floating around and many people can just close a pub and spend a million on it before reopening in a fanfare of congratulations…..which I won’t deny, sounds like a lot of fun.  The reality for most smaller businesses is that you have to fit in around your day to day business, so you can continue to grow.