The Black Horse at Ireland - case study
Always keen to make our customers our partners (no matter how small or large the account) and see how real Chefs work in the field, the Major marketing team went along to visit the Black Horse at Ireland near Shefford for an insider's perspective on the on-trade sector and to witness how our products are applied in practice.
Nestled into the countryside at the heart of Bedfordshire in the idyllic, tiny and strangely named hamlet of Ireland (which consists of about three houses), the family run free-house, the Black Horse Inn, is a pub which oozes style and charisma. Originally built in the late seventeenth century, the interior design of the establishment is a harmonious symposium of old and new. Exposed original beams, low ceilings and an inglenook fireplace in the cozy intimate bar area juxtapose beautifully with the more contemporary, light and fresh looking dining areas. With illuminating skylights, soft walled seating to elegant high-backed chairs and French Windows leading to outdoor terraces perfect alfresco dining, it truly is a gem of a pub. It does not come as a surprise therefore, that it was four times winner of the Dining Pub of the year in the Good pub guide from 2012-2015 and its sister pub, The Birch Woburn, took the first prize this year.
Welcomed at the door by the Head Chef, Marc Ambrose and Company Director, Darren Campbell Major Marketing crew, were made to feel instantly at home. “Here at the Black Horse we pride ourselves on our consistency, quality and core family orientated values. We constantly aspire to provide the best food, service and that all round quality experience which our guests deserve.” This was certainly Major's first impression.
But how does an independent pub like this fair against the competition of more commercial chains? As Darren explained, it has been vital for the company to keep abreast with modernization, even in terms of booking systems. “We have signed up and gone live with open table booking. If you are the PA to a CEO of a company and you need to make a reservation for lunch, you want to know there and then about availability. Or you go elsewhere. Even if it wasn’t your first choice”.
Equally it is about how you approach the competition, explained Jess Zobian Campbell, Marketing and Creative Manager for the company. "We don’t market ourselves as budget-end. We work on special offers, like a bottle of wine with your meal or set price menus”, she explained, “but more importantly bespoke touches to make your experience unique, such as customizing cards for special occasions, which we generate in-house”
“Moreover, with our extensive and carefully selected wine list, the ongoing training of our staff on food and drink pairing, keeping an eye to what is hot in London and by offering a selection of fine ales, draught and bottled beers to boot, we try to make our offer all the more inviting”, finished Campbell.
From a supplier's perspective, we were clearly very interested in how the company forms its menu. Do they work on a seasonal basis? How do they ensure customer satisfaction and renewed support from their guests? "Whilst we do not change our menu as often as I would like, our weekly set price menu has a degree of flexibility as we are all about fully fresh when it comes to produce, and try to stay as seasonal as possible”, explains Head Chef Marc Ambrose. “Where we can, we buy all our produce local and fresh,” extrapolates Campbell. “Our shallots for example, come from very our own garden. Talking with our local suppliers, we find out what they have in stock and our Chefs tweak our menus accordingly. This helps us deliver the high-quality dining experience our customers are used to every time.”
Having shared a few words with the staff, the Head Chef Marc Ambrose then took us to the kitchen to meet the team manning the stations; a small army of seven dedicated chefs. With orders already in for the weekend, taken through their new open table booking system, a middle range 77 covers for Friday evening and 140 covers already in place for Saturday, we had a feel for the kind of turnover that such a place generates.
Ambrose then showed us a couple of winning dishes using Major Products. From an Italian seafood pasta dish, using our Major Shellfish Glacé to "enhance the flavours of the seafood in the sauce", to barbecued chicken wings, "packing a punch" with our Major Barbecue Mari Base, and even a sexy dessert, a White Chocolate & Raspberry Mousse served with a raspberry milkshake and lemon biscotti, featuring Major Raspberry Fruit Base. The offer was truly scrumptious.
Whilst in the kitchen, Ambrose explained his reasons for using ready made products such as our own. " Major Mari-bases are my favourite to work with as they provide that added burst of flavour to a recipe and I use them to enhance our dishes. I have recently started playing around with the Pan-Asian range too, which I will be incorporating into our offer in the near future. But the product best which explains the use of a quality readymade would be Major Veal Jus for me. I have tried the competition but Major is far superior”, explained Ambrose. “Not only is a great product with a smooth consistency delivers on taste, the veal coming through as the first flavour but it helps us with quality. Ideally, every Chef would like to be able to make their own but we do not have the time to have a stock pot on in the kitchen every day and we would not be able to supply the quantity to cater for the demand. The beauty of a product like Major is exactly that consistency, freshness of flavour and helping Chefs deliver quality dishes every time”
All in all, an informative and wonderful trip. Safe to say we will definitely be going back to the Black Horse at Ireland and will plan our visit just in time for dinner!
For more information about Major Products or for free samples, please see our Flavour Portfolio and recipe ideas on our Magazine.
To view menus in full or to book at table at the Black Horse at Ireland visit their homepage: www.blackhorseireland.com