Fighting fit for festive season

Operators looking to build on last year’s successful Christmas

Operators Chris McCrossen and Carol Duffy took over Harvies in December last year

THE team behind a relaunched Paisley pub has high hopes for the festive season after a strong Christmas 2018 and first year in business.

Chris McCrossen and Carol Duffy took over Harvies on Glasgow Road in late 2018.

Both are experienced in the trade, having worked together for many years at The Argosy, a pub in nearby Cardonald which Duffy still runs.

The duo took on the lease of Harvies from Star Pubs & Bars, with the pub company then investing £160,000 in a significant refurb of the outlet.

It reopened in early December last year, just a few weeks ahead of Christmas.

“It was like walking into a brand new pub,” McCrossen told SLTN.

“The architect did a really good job. It looks like a city centre pub in a suburb of Paisley.”

With December already underway there wasn’t much time to plan for the team’s first festive season, but McCrossen said the venue didn’t suffer for it; the new-look Harvies went like a fair as locals turned up in droves to see the refurbished pub.

McCrossen said: “Our BDM from Star Pubs invited George Adam, the MSP, to come and see the place.

“He came on Christmas Eve last year and we were so busy he couldn’t get in the front door.”

For Hogmanay there was karaoke and a free buffet, which also proved popular with locals.

If you can’t make money in December there’s probably no point in the rest of the year.

As busy as the pub was last Christmas, however, McCrossen and his team reckon they can do better in 2019.

Experience from last year’s festive season has been built upon with a successful first year in operation that has seen McCrossen and Duffy increase revenues by 25%.

The pub’s interior isn’t the only thing that’s changed since the two operators took on the lease.

Harvies’ food and drinks offers were also overhauled, with Scottish spirits becoming a major focus.

Around 50 Scotch whiskies appear on the gantry, including names like Bunnahabhain, Royal Salute and The Macallan, accompanied by 30 gins that include Scottish brands Tobermory, Hendrick’s, Harris Gin and The Botanist.

These complement a draught range that includes Heineken brands Maltsmiths IPA, Birra Moretti, Heineken, Strongbow (Original and Dark Fruit) and John Smith’s.

McCrossen said the premium drinks have proven particularly popular with customers.

“Around here you’ve got Ralston, Hawkhead, Whitehaugh,” he said.

“They’re quite affluent areas. They come in with their families and they want to sample decent things.”

And last year’s festive season has led him to believe this will be particularly pronounced in December, when customers will turn to more expensive malts and liqueurs.

The food side has also been expanded, with the menu including Scottish favourites like haggis, neeps and tatties and steak pie as well as chicken sizzlers.

Food will be a major focus for the pub over the festive season, with a Christmas set-menu offering three courses for £17.95 or £40 on Christmas Day itself.

McCrossen said the pub has already had bookings from several local businesses for staff dinners in December as well as bookings for Christmas Day.

The pub is also offering a cheaper dinner on Christmas Day for local pensioners.

“Nobody wants to be alone on Christmas Day,” said McCrossen.

“The TV’s not that great. How many times can you watch The Great Escape?”

And while getting the food and drinks offers just right has been important, the number one lesson learned from last year’s festive season was to make sure there is a big team working behind the bar throughout December.

“We’ll need plenty staff on, because if it’s anything like last year we’ll be mobbed right through to January,” said McCrossen.

“Hopefully it’s busy. More staff behind the bar so nobody’s waiting for drinks. Quick service, good food. We should do a fortune.

“It’s been the same every year I’ve worked in a pub. It’s the busiest time of the year. If you don’t make money in December there’s probably no point opening the rest of the year.

“I’m expecting a massive Christmas this year for Harvies.”