Imagine having your best day of takings ever and then just hours later the whole thing going up in smoke.

Not metaphorically, literally.

That's what happened at The Unruly Pig in the Suffolk village of Bromeswell, just a few weeks after new owner Brendan Padfield took the helm.

The retired lawyer (pictured below with his team) had only opened his first pub — previously known as The British Larder — at the end of March last year. The fire, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault in a walk-in freezer, struck on June 23.

It came as the pub was starting to establish itself as an informal venue with a high-quality food offering.

Brendan tells Inapub: "We were beginning to build up our reputation. We were developing a very healthy trade, the Sunday before was Fathers' Day and that was our best day ever. People were beginning to recognise it as a different brand.

"We had our Michelin inspection, we were going to be listed and as it transpired we got into the Good Food Guide with the best rating in Woodbridge and Ipswich."

The blaze started in the pub's courtyard in the early hours of the morning, gutting 40 per cent of the building. It took 50 fire-fighters to get it under control and left Brendan and his team facing months of rebuilding work.

So did he ever think his new career just wasn't meant to be?

"I did on more than one occasion. But it is something I've always wanted to do and I'm pretty tenacious. Personal trauma in whatever capacity is difficult to deal with in life and even though nobody was injured it was far more traumatic than I imagined. But the truth is you have no choice — you have to get on with it and rise to the challenge."

So he focused on bringing the Pig back to life. "The machinery starts with the insurance, at the basic level of 'we have to get this site secure', then we have to appoint contractors and come up with a plan as to how we get it built.

"From my side I have to sit down with my team and say 'are you still with me?'"

They were. He managed to retain 95 per cent of his staff, including the management team. He held regular meetings to keep them involved in the rebuilding process.

Between them they came up with new ideas to implement in the pub — seizing the chance to make changes to the layout, such as repositioning the bar.

And when it reopened late last year it was well received by locals who were keen to see the 16th century building back in business.

"Structurally and cosmetically it gave us the opportunity to make changes, which have been favourably received," he adds.

The pub is now trading well, with its "Britalian" menu attracting diners from miles around and earning rave reviews.

And although the fire was an accident, it has ensured Brendan and his team are now even more focused than before on the safety of the pub.

"You learn lessons and the pub is now in a much better state," Brendan says.

"We have rewired and changed our procedures because we never want this to happen again.

"We were assidious before but we have certainly upped our game because if you go through this you certainly never want it to happen again. And therefore you go overboard about it but that's not a bad thing. "

And neither was the decision to ensure The Unruly Pig rose again.

 

 

The Unruly Pig

Bromeswell, Suffolk

Staff: 17

Ownership: Punch lease

Wet/dry split: 60/40

Best-selling dish: The Unruly Burger

Best GP dish: Grazing platter

 

Ensure you're insured

When asked what his advice would be to licensees facing the same situation, Brendan does not hesitate. You need to be prepared for this worst-case scenario.

"The first thing is to make sure you are well insured," he explains. "I was well advised with great cover. My loss adjuster told me many people under-insure because they go for the short term remedy. That short-term gain can potentially be long-term loss.

"Make sure you are covered for property, contents and business interruption because it has made a difference. If you have that insurance the professionals will take over and take a lot of the hassle away from you."