Joe Cussens started his hospitality career as a kitchen porter at the age of 14. He is now the director of The Bath Pub Company. Award-winning food and a warm welcome is guaranteed at The Hare & Hounds, The Chequers, and The Marlborough Tavern – but will you find your food on a plate or a slate?
Plate or slate?
Plate. We're still serving the odd dish on slates, but in general we've moved away from it. You can still make presentation look stunning on a plate; there's a danger of gimmickry when you rely on slates to make a visual impact. It got to a stage a while back when wholly inappropriate dishes were being served on slates — have you ever tried eating ice cream on a slate?
Background music or silence is golden?
Background music, but most definitely in the background, not nightclub level. The right music played at the right volume can play a big role in creating the right ambience for a restaurant or pub, but play it too loud and it stops enhancing the ambience and undermines it instead.
Brass or chrome?
Brass, definitely. I'm a child of the '80s, so have a deep felt aversion to shiny chrome. Brass has an authentic, traditional appeal to it that combines well with more contemporary design elements.
Live sport or big screen-ban?
Big-screen ban. I've had some of my most memorable nights out watching big sporting events in a pub, but we're not in that game. It's often suggested to us to put in a screen for special occasions like the Rugby World Cup, but if you do that, where and how do you draw the line? I also think it's better to have a clear policy — you're either a sports pub or you're not. That way people know what to expect from you.
Family-friendly or keep the kids home?
We like to think that our pubs appeal to a broad church of customer types – that's when a pub is at its best. Families, especially those with young children, have certain requirements, our staff are trained to understand this and we attend to the children quickly. Keep them fed, entertained and happy and everyone will thank you — not just the parents, but other diners whose meal wouldn't be enhanced by a toddler having a meltdown.
Dogs allowed or the only animals allowed are on the menu?
Our policy to four-legged customers is the same as the two legged ones — all are welcome as long as they behave themselves.
Shabby chic or designer shrine?
I guess we'd be in the shabby chic camp. The trick is to make a place feel lived in and informal in a way that invites customers to relax. The knack is to make sure you don't overstep the mark from shabby chic to simply shabby.