A husband and wife team have just reopened historic Faversham inn The Railway Hotel – with more than a little help from their family and friends.
Donna and David Davis took on the Shepherd Neame pub, a Grade II Listed building dating back to the 1850s, located opposite the town’s train station, at the end of July.
The couple have three sons, and the whole family have come together to get the business up and running. Ollie, 18, is working as a Team Member in the bar, while 21-year-old Ben’s fiancée Sarah Beeney has taken on the role of Bar Manager. Sam, 16, is a drummer in local band Penny Spent, so he will also be making his contribution by opening the pub’s Hop Festival entertainment this weekend with a performance on Friday evening (September 1).
The couple also enlisted help from other family members and friends to undertake extensive refurbishment of the pub’s spacious bar area and seven en-suite bedrooms during the past few weeks before it reopened to the public on August 18.
David, 44, said: “I worked in pubs in Surrey at the end of the 1990s, and Donna also worked on the bar at the old Wembley Stadium during that time, so we both have hospitality experience, but we have never run a pub before. I own a garage in Margate and Donna’s been running a nursery in Westgate-in-Sea for the past seven years, but about three years ago we began thinking of ways in which we could come together with our boys to build a family business, and a pub seemed ideal.”
The couple began looking for possible sites around Kent, and when The Railway Hotel became available, it seemed the perfect opportunity.
David, who lives with Donna and their sons in Westgate-on-Sea, said: “The Railway Hotel is such a beautiful building in the heart of Faversham, and we could see it had a huge amount of potential. We contacted Shepherd Neame with our ideas for the business, and we were delighted when they gave us the go-ahead to take it on.”
It has been a busy few months for the couple, who have continued to manage their other businesses while also working with Shepherd Neame to ensure they were fully prepared for their new venture, completing courses in areas such as licensing and cellar management.
David said: “Donna and I both have experience of running our own businesses, but neither of us have experience of running a pub, so it has been fantastic to have the Sheps team on hand, with the brewery literally a 10 minute walk away, helping us every step of the way.”
The pub’s Carriage Restaurant is currently closed while the team continues to work on a refurbishment of the kitchen, but they plan to begin offering food again next month, introducing a new menu of traditional pub classics and light bites.
David said: “We have a long road ahead, but we are pleased at what we have achieved so far. We are really looking forward to the Hop Festival this weekend, as it is the perfect opportunity for us to introduce ourselves and welcome customers old and new. We have a full line-up of music planned, with 13 bands over the three days, and we also have more than a dozen family members and friends ready to help out during what we hope will be a very busy weekend for the pub.”
He added: “It’s definitely the hardest thing that we have ever done, but we are really enjoying the challenge, and are incredibly excited about creating a family business together in such a unique, characterful pub.”
- Shepherd Neame is principal partner of this year’s Faversham Hop Festival. For more information visit: www.shepherdneame.co.uk/hop-festival
About Shepherd Neame
Shepherd Neame has been based in the market town of Faversham, Kent for over 300 years. Perhaps best known for great British classic ales such as Spitfire Amber, which carries the Royal Warrant, its diverse portfolio includes Five Grain Lager, Bear Island East Coast Pale Ale and Bear Island Triple Hopped Lager, and the Whitstable Bay Collection. It also brews international lagers under licence including premium Thai lager Singha. The independent family business boasts an award-winning visitor centre and more than 300 pubs and hotels throughout London and the South East, from the historic heart of the City to the Kent coastline.
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