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The Churchill Arms at Paxford, near Chipping Campden

PUBLISHED: 11:53 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 February 2013

The churchill Arms

The churchill Arms

What do you do when your thriving village gastro pub suddenly changes ownership and the new management make a mess of it, including getting through 30 chefs in nine months? Nicky Godding meets the friends who found the solution.

If your heart rules your head, you don't do the sensible thing and heed the national reports of 39 pubs a week closing due to a downturn in the sector. Instead you take on the tenancy yourself.

That's what two friends have done at The Churchill Arms at Paxford, near Chipping Campden, a 17th Century Grade II listed pub, reputed to be a former favourite haunt of Sunday Times food critic and filmmaker Michael Winner.

Six months ago, when their own day jobs became quiet as a result of the turbulence in the world economy and across the financial markets, Sheridan Mather who runs a headhunting company for the hedge fund industry and Richard Shore, a London and Cotswolds property developer, decided to put their unexpected spare time to good use and take over the pub.

The pretty Churchill Arms had enjoyed a decade of success being owned and run by Leo and Sonia Brooke-Little, previously of the Marsh Goose, but after 12 years they decided to sell up to a national pub chain, "which unfortunately is when its' reputation started to suffer," according to Sheridan.

"Ever since we'd moved to the area, we'd loved the pub and enjoyed its fantastic food and atmosphere," he explains, "but the moment that Enterprise Inns bought the pub, the previous owners who were really the businesses' key asset, were walking out of the door. So when the last unsuccessful management team wanted to leave, we applied to take over the tenancy."

With no direct experience of running a pub, but with plenty of business savvy, Sheridan, 34 and Richard, 40, both of whom have young families, set to work turning the pub around.

"We knew that as a well-known destination gastro pub, The Churchill Arms desperately needed to re-establish its reputation for good quality food, and then the rest would follow," adds Richard.

The team recruited William Guthrie, an award-winning chef who successfully established the 5-Star restaurant at Jesmonds of Highworth on the other side of the Cotswolds. This investment is clearly paying off as over the last six months bookings are up and turnover at The Churchill Arms has tripled.

It is a family affair too as Richard's wife has a keen eye for detail and Sheridan's wife has taken on the job of financial controller.

So is it as easy as it seems then? Of course not, says Sheridan. "Whilst we didn't go into this naively thinking that running a country pub would be an easy way out of the rat race, it is certainly harder work than we thought. There was a lot of analysis needed to identify where the pub wasn't performing as well as it should - and we can't believe how much time the business takes up. My family lives in the village and Richard's live just a couple of miles away so one or both of us are around on a daily basis - which is what our customers expect."

Richard jumps in: "I can drop into the pub for fifteen minutes to sort something out and still be there three hours later!"

But it's evident that Sheridan and Richard are passionate about their new project - and a good thing too as both are reporting an upsurge in their main businesses, which in Sheridan's case took him back to Hong Kong for two weeks last month and Richard calling the bottom of the market and considering new property investments.

"We've established a great team, including a number of staff members who have stayed on during the change of ownership, which is great as they are well-known and well-liked by our customers," says Sheridan.

www.thechurchillarms.com

If your heart rules your head, you don't do the sensible thing and heed the national reports of 39 pubs a week closing due to a downturn in the sector. Instead you take on the tenancy yourself.

That's what two friends have done at The Churchill Arms at Paxford, near Chipping Campden, a 17th Century Grade II listed pub, reputed to be a former favourite haunt of Sunday Times food critic and filmmaker Michael Winner.

Six months ago, when their own day jobs became quiet as a result of the turbulence in the world economy and across the financial markets, Sheridan Mather who runs a headhunting company for the hedge fund industry and Richard Shore, a London and Cotswolds property developer, decided to put their unexpected spare time to good use and take over the pub.

The pretty Churchill Arms had enjoyed a decade of success being owned and run by Leo and Sonia Brooke-Little, previously of the Marsh Goose, but after 12 years they decided to sell up to a national pub chain, "which unfortunately is when its' reputation started to suffer," according to Sheridan.

"Ever since we'd moved to the area, we'd loved the pub and enjoyed its fantastic food and atmosphere," he explains, "but the moment that Enterprise Inns bought the pub, the previous owners who were really the businesses' key asset, were walking out of the door. So when the last unsuccessful management team wanted to leave, we applied to take over the tenancy."

With no direct experience of running a pub, but with plenty of business savvy, Sheridan, 34 and Richard, 40, both of whom have young families, set to work turning the pub around.

"We knew that as a well-known destination gastro pub, The Churchill Arms desperately needed to re-establish its reputation for good quality food, and then the rest would follow," adds Richard.

The team recruited William Guthrie, an award-winning chef who successfully established the 5-Star restaurant at Jesmonds of Highworth on the other side of the Cotswolds. This investment is clearly paying off as over the last six months bookings are up and turnover at The Churchill Arms has tripled.

It is a family affair too as Richard's wife has a keen eye for detail and Sheridan's wife has taken on the job of financial controller.

So is it as easy as it seems then? Of course not, says Sheridan. "Whilst we didn't go into this naively thinking that running a country pub would be an easy way out of the rat race, it is certainly harder work than we thought. There was a lot of analysis needed to identify where the pub wasn't performing as well as it should - and we can't believe how much time the business takes up. My family lives in the village and Richard's live just a couple of miles away so one or both of us are around on a daily basis - which is what our customers expect."

Richard jumps in: "I can drop into the pub for fifteen minutes to sort something out and still be there three hours later!"

But it's evident that Sheridan and Richard are passionate about their new project - and a good thing too as both are reporting an upsurge in their main businesses, which in Sheridan's case took him back to Hong Kong for two weeks last month and Richard calling the bottom of the market and considering new property investments.

"We've established a great team, including a number of staff members who have stayed on during the change of ownership, which is great as they are well-known and well-liked by our customers," says Sheridan.

www.thechurchillarms.com

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