'Best Family Dining' pub The Rose & Crown talks gin, juice and customer curiosity

The Rose & Crown in Thorpe credits gin jollies, kids’ colouring competitions, trendy food styling and a delicious range of premium soft drinks as some of the initiatives central to it scooping Surrey Life reader votes, to be named ‘Best Family Dining’ outlet in Surrey. We meet Clive Price, founder of Baron Pubs, to discover the secrets to its success.

1. Tell us about The Rose & Crown, your team and the experience you can expect to find if you visit.

The Rose & Crown is a picturesque old English pub with gorgeous gardens and patio areas overlooking a green. The original building dates back to about 1650 and inside we have tried to hold on to its traditional character, while offering our customers the best experience that a modern pub can provide – family-friendly dining, an exciting menu, a great range of drinks and ales, free WiFi. We place a great deal of emphasis on staff training and aim to make our customers feel welcome and enjoy every aspect of their visit to us. Nick Avenell, our general manager there, leads an excellent team of staff.

2. You’ve just scooped the Best Family Dining award. What does this accolade mean to you?

We were so excited to win this award from Surrey Life magazine, especially as it was voted for by customers. Just to have made the final three was such an amazing achievement given that there are so many excellent family dining options in Surrey. Interestingly, we were up against another Baron Pub, The Cricketers in Horsell, which also made it to the final three! It was really wonderful for The Rose & Crown team to receive the recognition such an award brings.

3. What does it mean to be a family friendly pub in today’s society?

We see family friendly as offering a fantastic dining experience for all generations of diners. From having good accessibility and comfy seating, to offering a great range of menu items, including a specific kids’ menu and things to keep the little ones occupied, such as our popular colouring competition, Wikki Craft Stix and play area in the rear garden.

4. What trends are making their way into your pub and onto your menus?

We recently had a lobster roll on our specials menu which sold really well and looked very trendy served in a wooden crate. Recently we have got into gin in a big way too. We introduced a very exciting gin menu in the summer, offering customers the chance to create their perfect gin. They picked from 11 different brands of gin, mixing them with one of nine classic mixers and they even chose the glass type and garnish they preferred. We also have a choice of three perfect gin cocktails to choose from.

5. What sorts of drinks do you stock behind your bar and what are your bestsellers?

Our gin menu this year has been hugely successful and this has spurred us on to develop an expanded drinks menu, including a better range of spirits, kids’ drinks and mocktails. The key for us is to offer great products that are simple, as no one likes waiting at a bar for 10 minutes while the person in front orders a really complicated cocktail that takes forever to assemble! We are working with Frobishers at the moment to develop our soft drink offering.

6. Have you noticed any change in your customers’ behaviour or purchasing habits?

With our recent refurbishment programme, our pubs are looking smarter and feeling more premium all the time. With this we are seeing more demand for premium products and higher customer spend. People also seem more likely to try something new or different.

7. What’s your fruit juice personality?

I think I’m probably an Apple & Mango Fusion. Grounded in a classic British flavour (apple juice) but with elements of more exciting and exotic flavours (mango)!