Catch of the Day

Joycelyn Neve, Seafood Pub Company
19/06/2017 - 07:30
Seafood Pub Company’s school of pubs is growing beyond its Lancashire roots with its first steps into Yorkshire. Managing director Joycelyn Neve speaks to Andrew McClean about plans for expansion.

Joycelyn Neve has seafood in her blood. Her grandfather was a trawlerman and her father set up his own fish firm when he was 18 years old. Neve herself registered the Seafood Pub Company name while working in a bar in 2010 to pay off travelling debt. She says that her family’s fishing history is reflected in her pub company’s food offering: 

“Knowing your produce is really important in this business and my background has naturally really helped me understand the difference between what is good and what is average. If you’ve grown up around brilliant produce, then it is easier for you to quickly distinguish between what can work and what doesn’t have the right level of quality.”

The Seafood Pub Company is made up of destination venues serving its premium seafood offering and more suburban, family focused venues that have a younger drinking trade. The food offering is led by a range of specials that varies at each venue and customer engagement is vital in understanding what to serve, Neve explains:

“We spend a lot of time researching each venue to understand its specific quirks and behaviours. I’m a firm believer that this market research never stops, which is why we continuously work with our customers to understand what works for them.

“For example, if we introduce a new dish, we will launch it as a special and assess its popularity from there. If it takes off and people love it, we will ensure that it is a staple dish on the next menu.

“I don’t believe that an individual or a business should ever stop learning so that constant dialogue and communication with our customers is really important. You are only as good as your last meal so it’s important to maintain those standards and always look to improve.

“Also, given that our venues are all different, we could have a very different customer base just 30 minutes down the road. It’s important to speak to locals to understand their specific likes and dislikes.”

Menu items include: whole lemon sole with crispy Yukon gold potatoes, crab, scallops and wild garlic butter; roast halibut with dukkah crust, roasted chilli cous cous, labneh yoghurt dressing, cucumber and coriander; classic fisherman’s stew with langoustines, mussels, king prawns, squid and monkfish with saffron potatoes, rouille and crusty bread; and tikka spiced monkfish with Bombay potatoes, crispy broccoli and coconut yoghurt.

Seafood Pub Company opened its first pub, Blackburn’s Oyster & Otter, in 2011 and has since grown to 12 locations. In April, the pub company announced its second Yorkshire pub acquisition and has plans for a third in the area by the end of 2017.

Its recent acquisitions have been achieved because of a partnership with Penta Capital, which came about after being introduced by Seafood’s original investor, Matthew Riley. The investment specialists arranged an £18 million funding package to acquire a majority equity stake in the business. Seafood had a clear growth plan in place and its desire to grow beyond Lancashire had become achievable with Penta on board.

Expansion is currently focused on Yorkshire with a target to reach 20 sites in the next four or five years. However, Neve would not rule out a different area if the right opportunity came along and admits The Lake District is an option. Growth in the staycation market and the idyllic location of Seafood’s pubs places the business in a strong position to expand the accommodation offering, she says:

“We have a list of areas we know would be the right fit for our offer. Whether it’s a destination restaurant, a community pub or a venue that has good opportunity for accommodation based growth, we are clear on the type of property we’d like

“The criteria varies depending on location so, whilst it is useful to have local attractions near the venue for increased footfall, for a very pretty destination location our concept is strong enough for people to travel to. As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of people come to stay in our rooms.”

As the company grows, Neve is confident that the business is structured to withstand any potential industry issues:

“There will undoubtedly be some market challenges. It’s up to companies like ours to be agile and create experiences and offers, which can serve the changing needs of the market. We know what we are good at and will ensure that we stay true to our core values as a business, even in a potentially challenging economic climate.”

Copyright 2017 EatOut Magazine
Dewberry Redpoint Limited is a company Registered in England and Wales No : 03129594 Registered Office:
John Carpenter House, John Carpenter Street, London EC4Y 0AN, UK, VAT registered, number 586 7988 48.

Design & Development by Eton Digital