The IT & Business Consultant who Went on to Run the Pub He Worked in as a Teenager
Right in the middle of Stoke-on-Trent and Derby, amidst the non-stop countryside that runs 10 miles south of the Peak District National Park, lies The Tavern pub in the village of Denstone, a civil parish of the town of Uttoxeter. It is here that former IT & Business Consultant Max Lloyd worked as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. Now, more than a decade later, he’s back, running the place.
“I had my first pint in here,” says Max. “I never thought I’d end up running the place. But I came in as Manager when I was 18 and I remember this one time that I was outside the pub, admiring the hanging baskets. The then-landlord—my boss at the time—came up to me, put his arm round me and joked, ‘one day, this could all be yours.’ So, you know what? When I got it, I rang him and said, ‘it is!’”
“I had my first pint in here. I never thought I’d end up running the place.”
During the time in between, Max developed a career in IT and business consultancy, working alongside his father-in-law. Asked how his former employer (and presumably one of the toughest people in his life to please) reacted when he told him he was packing it in to go off and run his own pub, Max says, “To be honest, he was the one who put the money up for me to do this. So—all in all—very encouraging, you might say.”
Max’s close, personal connection to The Tavern doesn’t stop with heart-warming accounts of teenage premonitions and his father-in-law’s involvement, either. He’s also hired locally renowned Chef, Luke Norfolk to run the kitchen. Luke’s been Max’s best friend since the age of 11 and also started out at The Tavern (behind the bar) around the same time as Max.
“His Sunday dinners are absolutely blindin’,” Max says with pride. “Salmon starters, sirloin of beef, award-winning sticky toffee pudding… All made fresh and it’s all local stuff—I buy the produce from people I know.”
“When the locals tell us they want something different on the menu, we listen…”
The level of freedom to be able to build a menu from scratch and source produce from an unlimited range of local suppliers isn’t something all publicans enjoy. Many are tied into food deals that mean they have to offer what the pub company tells them to offer. However, Max has in place an agreement with Marston’s known as a Pillar Partnership, which enables him to do what he pleases, food wise, which he says is incredibly important.
“I think, especially for a country pub like this, you have to be able to support local producers, he says. “Because they’re the ones who come in here, dining and drinking. When the locals tell us they want something different on the menu, we listen—and that really makes a difference to them.”
“We made it feel like their beloved country pub again and they’ve come back.”
The difference Max mentions is startling. You’ll now find the likes of cherry smoked woodpigeon, three-way pork and ballantine of chicken on the menu, alongside more classic dishes like the pub’s beloved fish and chips. And it’s had an impact on the footfall, not just in terms of welcoming new guests to the pub, but also by enticing familiar faces who hadn’t set foot in the place for a long time.
“There are people who’ve come in and I thought they’d moved away,” says Max. “It’d been that long since I’d seen them. But we made it feel like their beloved country pub again and they’ve come back.”
It’s obvious when talking to Max that his mind is on a dozen different things all at once. Yet, whilst he lists indecisiveness as his weakness (“I’d take on everything if I didn’t have a manager who took certain things off me,”) he’s actually a very matter-of-fact communicator who can shift his attention to the crux of each matter. It’s that flexibility and ability to multi-task, he admits, that’s at the heart of what makes him successful in his new career.
“When you’re as committed as I am, you get to be quite good at everything. I trust other people—you’ve got to in a job like this where there’s so much to do—but I’m not just a manager and I’m not just pulling pints… I’m like a counsellor for the locals and my team… You end up becoming everything all at once—I have, anyway.”
That seems like a heavy workload for someone who’s still quite youthful and without the level of experience that some self-employed publicans might have. However, Max says that the support he’s had from Marston’s (“You just pick up the phone and they’re there”) has enabled him to get his head down and get on with the job of running the place, without having to focus on little, niggling concerns, like the blocked drain he had the previous month, which he tells us the Marston’s team came out to fix within an hour of him calling.
Nevertheless, in spite of the support Max gets at The Tavern, he says he wouldn’t have it any other way than to be constantly busy, doing what he truly loves.
“Pub life?” he says. “It’s the friends I’ve made over the years… It’s the fact that you’re your own boss… It’s not a job—it’s your life!”
Looking for something else to read? Take a look at our article on The Wealth Manager Who Invested in a Career Change.