Rob’s Round Up of 2023

Happy New Year from everyone at Longbow Venues

2024 is promising to be an exciting year for us as we speed ahead with the opening of the Ashford Arms, reopen The George and continue to build on the strength and reputation of The Maynard.

What a year 2023 has been!

At this time of year, there’s a trend to look back over your photo album on your phone from the last 12 months and see all that you have experienced, achieved and captured.

2023 has been a year of highs and lows and didn’t start too great when I did my shoulder in back in January and then needed surgery. In early 2023 we refurbished the restaurant at The Maynard and started work on our incredible outdoor dining space which opened in March. We had a fantastic time throughout May and June, including a brilliant King’s Coronation party before July and August was absolute pants on the weather front.

The Maynard has created memories to last a lifetime at over 90 weddings this year and our new wedding and events manager, Katie, is working hard on making even more memorable moments that will make our beautiful weddings stand out. The programme of Christmas events has also been exceptional and we are already planning Christmas 2024 across all three venues.

A Phenomenal Year

It has been a phenomenal year, trade-wise. The George was outperforming expected targets, especially against wage increases, supplier costs up, and the energy crisis. The team have been amazing, resilient and pushed the businesses to new highs.

In October, when Storm Babet caused the flood at The George, the business was forced to close. The whole ground floor is now undergoing extensive refurbishment and repair works. The bar, restaurant, reception, lounge, Dragon’s Den, kitchen, back of house storage, staff accommodation, office and 5 bedrooms are still drying out. Electrics and gas need to be replaced, and all furnishings and equipment.

It is a mammoth task but one we are on with and we are hopeful to re-open in Spring. The George flood was devastating but one positive is seeing the teams come together as one unity for the greater good.

Growing the Team

The team at Longbow are the lifeblood of the business and I am so proud of each and every one of them.

Growing the team has got to be my proudest moment in 2023. It is a far cry from going through the devastating lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 and doing all the things myself. In 2020 when I sold my house, maxed out loans and took a huge personal risk opening The Maynard, everything was on the line. I had to make it work. So at some points, I have done everything in one day; the cooking, cleaning, operations, accounts… you name it, I had to take it on. I had no choice. It has meant I had a huge personal attachment to the business. I think the fear of it happening again has affected many of us in hospitality and thinking you have to continue to do all the things was a mindset I wanted to get out of.

I needed help

In 2022, after a period of stability, two venues and things all going great, I decided I had to get serious about running Longbow with a team to help me, and not having everything on my shoulders.

I’ve coined this process ‘Letting go of the vine’ and it’s been a big push of mine to let go of many of the vines that stop me from moving into the right parts of the business for our future sustainability and growth.

In early 2023 I hired Charlotte, a sales and marketing manager and later in the year expanded that team to include Verity, our social media manager and marketer. This has brought much-needed creative ideas into the business and continued to ensure we spread our message far and wide.

I also hired an office manager to assist me with a lot of the tasks that were taking up time I could be spending on more important parts of the business. I say office manager, but Vic has brought so much more to the party. She is such a wealth of strategic expertise, is the most organised and process-driven person you could wish to meet and she’s helped us excel in our organisation and planning.

Our HQ team on our away day

Promoting from Within

A personal stance of mine in building Longbow is that we always promote from within where possible.

Hospitality is often a career that is overlooked or considered a stop-gap between studies or a side hustle to get extra cash. At Longbow I’m super serious about promoting hospitality as a rewarding and lucrative career with real potential.

I’ve partnered with local education providers on upcoming T levels to ensure the next generation of hospitality professionals are equipped with the right skills and also joined some of Visit Derbyshire and the Peak District’s committees on working to strengthen hospitality in the Peak District.

The biggest thing we did for growth, succession and recruitment though came off the back of staff feedback. We conducted anonymous surveys and staff said they wanted to progress within the business but didn’t know how to. This led to a late-night lightbulb moment that progressed to hiring Jack – a dedicated Talent and Succession Manager who would ensure that we had the right progressive training, clear career path, in-house recruitment and future succession plans taken care of. 

Later in the year, we conducted our first HQ team away day, putting down plans for 2023 and beyond. We were steaming ahead with ideas, refining processes, growing and levelling up when the devastating news that The George had flooded came our way.

Bringing The Ashford Arms Back to Life

Before The George reopens though there’s been big welcome news this year in Ashford in the Water with the refurbishment and opening of The Ashford Arms.

The work happening at The Ashford Arms and The George is similar in some ways and we didn’t expect to effectively be opening two new venues around the same time! There’s been a bit of a downer in realising some unexpected structural work needs to be done at The Ashford Arms, setting us back slightly.

However, the work we have done in 2023 to grow our teams, particularly our HQ team, has meant we have the mindset, resilience and pooled skills to be able to pull off both the reopening of The George and the opening of The Ashford Arms. 

The Ashford Arms is going to be a welcome addition to the Longbow portfolio of venues. It won’t look like a carbon copy of The Maynard or The George. It is my wish that each venue has its own story and unique identity and you’ll see that coming through in the next few weeks as we give you a glimpse of what to expect. I am once again finding solace in my love for interior design and am designing the final finishes to bring my vision for The Ashford Arms to life.

Josh Butler wins Young Tourism Achiever

Leah Bancroft wins Young Apprentice

An Award-Winning Year

2023 hasn’t been all bad at all and this blip with The George won’t overshadow some incredible achievements like taking home multiple trophies in multiple awards.

The Visit Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism Awards brought a tear to my eye as Josh Butler won Young Tourism Achiever of the Year. Josh has worked with me since he was a teenager and in Autumn we all cried buckets as I offered him the role of general manager of The Ashford Arms. It is such a big achievement for him but one he wholeheartedly deserves. Josh is one of those case studies I want to shout about that the academic route is not always right for everyone. He is a real career progression success story. I can’t wait to see him put his stamp on The Ashford Arms.

We were also shortlisted in multiple categories at the East Midlands Business Awards but The Maynard’s Leah Bancroft won Apprentice of the Year and the tears flowed again! We won at the Westside and Southside awards and the upcoming 2024 Visit Peak District and Derbyshire Tourism awards have Emma West from The George up for Tourism Young Achiever and executive chef, Adrian Gagea, up for Unsung Hero.

Chef School

Talking of Adrian, this year he’s introduced ‘Chef School’ where he and our head chefs have created a programme of training and learning to ensure exceptional culinary skills are shared and taught collectively.

He’s also opened these sessions up to anyone in the business who may have a keen interest in learning more about what goes into the cooking processes. Not only has this been a great bonding exercise but it’s ensured standards are set, and processes are uniform. It’s also been a chance to work with suppliers on sampling some of the best food the Peak District has to offer so our teams understand our obsession and passion for quality ingredients.

Thanks to You

We shall continue our passion into 2024 and beyond thanks to you. You are the reason we do this and on behalf of everyone at Longbow Venues, we thank you for choosing us. We couldn’t do it without you.

Please note that The Maynard will be closed very briefly from 8th to 12th January so we can undertake some essential maintenance and piddly jobs like painting a few walls, getting the carpets deep cleaned and having a spring clean ready for the new year.

Wishing you the happiest, healthiest and tastiest times for 2024.

Rob and the team at Longbow Venues


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