Inn owner weathers tough trading conditions to buck pubs trend

Piers Baker, owner of the Sun Inn at Dedham Picture: SUN INN

Piers Baker, owner of the Sun Inn at Dedham Picture: SUN INN - Credit: Archant

The owner of a 15th century coaching inn in a celebrated beauty spot says he plans to continue his tenure for many years to come - in spite of tough trading conditions.

The Sun Inn at Dedham Picture: SUN INN

The Sun Inn at Dedham Picture: SUN INN - Credit: Archant

Piers Baker, who owns The Sun Inn in Dedham, on the Essex/Suffolk border, has just celebrated 15 years since he took it over.

In that time, he has seen costs rise, but says prices struggle to keep pace - although he has bucked the trend and expanded the business.

“I certainly need to make a higher margin today than I did in 2003 to cover these increased costs,” said Mr Baker, who also owns Church Street Tavern in Colchester.

“Trading conditions in recent years have been tough, mainly through higher business rates, rents, red tape, rising food and wage costs, and our prices have not always been able to keep pace with this.”

He recalled ‘rescuing’ the pub when he was aged just 27 and then reopening it back in 2003, spending three months rehauling it on a shoestring budget.

“I spent three months refurbishing the public areas and some new kit for the kitchen but without a major overhaul. As trade has grown, all profits have been put into constantly improving our facilities,” he said.

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Works have included a £150,000 investment in a new kitchen in January 2018 and further refurbishment of the public areas.

Staff retention and hiring has also been a challenge over the years, said Mr Baker.

However, the pub has a staff of 25 staff, including a kitchen team of eight led by head chef Jack Levine, who has worked there for seven years rising to head chef in 2015. The current team of chefs have been together since 2015 and the four-strong front-of-house team has 16 years’ service at the pub between them.

“I believe the high retention rates are down to my improvement in how the business is run, constantly seeking ways to improve our working environment (40-45 hour weeks) and conditions,” he said.

“I aim to have a close relationship with my teams and a full understanding of what they need to do their jobs well so they can drive the business forward.

“I probably started this business a bit too young and needing more experience, but I have it now.”

He added: “I intend to continue my tenure here for some time to come.”