Sign of our Times: What does the future hold for Dereham's pub trade?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 February 2020
As the Sign of our Times campaign focuses on Dereham's pub trade, one landlord says there are reasons to be cheerful.
These days we're more accustomed to reading about pubs closing than opening.
Figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics in 2018 showed the number of pubs in the UK dropped from 50,000 to 39,000 in 17 years.
But, during 2019, that number rose for the first time in a decade, with 315 more watering holes popping up across the nation.
The increase was said to be largely driven by food sales but, in Dereham, Steve Garner and Jane Howard have overseen the rebirth of traditional drinkers' pub, The Cock.
And Mr Garner says their successful start to life in the trade has been steered by a clear and direct vision.
"What we've done - and probably the key for anyone who wants a successful business in Dereham - is identify the need," said Mr Garner.
"I've lived here for years and, to my mind, there wasn't a proper pub. Now, two or three times a day we hear 'this is what Dereham needed.'
"You see a lot of shops closing but most are just churning out 'the formula', when in reality there are so many things we don't have.
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"It needs people to come along and say 'hang on a minute, there's a need for this', and it was the same with The Cock."
In the midst of uncertain times, Mr Garner believes there is no reason why the pub trade cannot thrive in Dereham.
The key, he says, is to simply get the basics right.
"Staff behind the bar need to engage with customers, you've got to serve great product, you've got to have a clean and warm environment, and you've got to know who your target audience are," he added.
"If you get all those things right, you can be successful - it's not rocket science."
In addition to those basics, Mr Garner - who also runs a nearby B&B - says businesses cannot simply go through the motions.
"Businesses have to go that extra mile," he said. "One of the things we're looking to do is really increase our engagement - go beyond being a basic pub.
"People can't just sit in their shops or pubs and wait for things to happen. They've got to go out there and make it happen themselves."