For a pub that is 100 per cent wet-led, food plays a vital role at The Garden House in Norwich.
For while you won’t find a set menu at the community-led Craft Union pub, you can pick up a packet of spuds, bread, fruit and veg, tins of beans and much, much more.
That’s because every Wednesday morning the pub opens its doors to those in need of a helping hand and provides a free food bank.
Donations are made by customers themselves and by the numerous local supermarkets and businesses that managers Jonathon and Tanya Childs have forged links with.
It’s for that reason, as well as being a sports pub of the highest order, that the couple have won the BT Sport Manager of the Month award for February.
Jonathon explains the ethos of the business:
Community pubs are very important for social cohesion. We play a key part in anything that’s local and anyone who needs help or stimulus to achieve goals. We welcome everyone.
The idea for the food bank came when the couple provided free Christmas dinners at their pub and for local hostels.
Jonathon continues: “Lots of local businesses and farmers donated food and we produced Christmas dinners for the needy. That highlighted the need for a food bank and we started it from there”.
“It was out of necessity. Norwich is a beautiful city, it’s a lovely area but it was shocking to see people who need a hand, begging on the streets”.
The food bank has helped countless people and some of the biggest donors of food are those who have used it themselves previously.
“They might have been struggling temporarily and needed help but further down the line they help others,” he adds.
They also use social media to spread the message and reach as many people as they can, going as far as asking people to bring food in when they come in to watch live sport.
We put adverts on social media, using the hashtag #hungerdoesnotwearcolours and we ask people to drop a tin of beans off when they come in to watch a game,” he adds.
Social media also acts as a primary means of contact for Jonathon who lost his hearing and now can’t communicate by telephone.
“I use Twitter and Facebook to talk to people such as breweries, I talk to customers on there as well. It is difficult to work behind the bar at times so I spend a lot of time on there.”
Sport is a hugely important part of the community offer at The Garden House. Locals and students form the majority of the clientele, with the latter ensuring there are fans for a variety of sides in the Champions League.
Tanya says: “We get students from all over the UK and the world coming in, so we will show different games on different screens simultaneously. We had a crowd in to watch Napoli the other day.”
As well as screens throughout the pub itself, the Garden House has an impressive outdoor area with a big screen, ideal for those big European nights at the end of spring and in the summer.
Tanya continues: “The Champions League is great in this pub. The final last year was packed. We were five rows deep at the bar and the garden was absolutely rammed. It was just manic that day.”
The sport feeds back into the ethos of the pub, with darts, pool and football teams all part of the community that help to raise funds for various causes.
Sport is such a big part of modern society it goes hand in glove with what we do with the fundraising,” says Jonathon.
And it doesn’t stop there. The Garden House is full of posters for forthcoming charity events, such as music nights and quizzes.
The pub also holds regular MeetUpMondays to bring people together.
Jonathon continues: “It’s a very positive thing and it helps a lot of people out. Sometimes people’s lives haven’t been so good. They might be lonely or have disabilities and it’s lovely to see them come together and develop”.
“They learn how to email, have talks from various people, and help out with fundraising at the pub. They do lots of good work.
“We also provide free Wi-Fi for people and help them with filling forms.”
He adds that the pub’s community spirit is supported by pubco Craft Union.
“None of this would be possible without Craft Union. We are a managed house and they give us the autonomy to do charitable things and really push us do that”.
“I’m sure if we worked for some chains we wouldn’t be able to do what we do but it benefits the community and is a really positive way to do business.”
With such a community minded attitude it comes as no great surprise that the couple said they would look to spend the £1,000 BT Shop voucher for winning Manager of the Month on Wi-Fi time for their customers.
They added being presented with the trophy is a proud moment for them both.
It’s lovely thank you. We are just trying to be a community sports pub and we use what we are given. BT Sport is a wonderful tool and it gets people in the pub. We are over the moon with winning it.
- Do you have what it takes to be a BT Sport Manager of the Month winner? Tell us why on Twitter, using the hashtag #BTMOTM, and you could be in with a chance of winning the prize and a visit from the BT Sport crew.