Pub refurbishment case study: How do you create the ultimate country pub experience?

When designing a pub refurbishment, we take a practical approach to provide a reliable, structured plan, bringing together the vision of the client, the needs of the customers, and a talented delivery team dedicated to excellence in project management. Woven throughout is an unrelenting devotion to creating the perfect style for your brand, so you can attract the perfect customer and ensure a 5-star experience.

This guide explains each step we take in creating the ultimate country pub experience:

  1. Listening to your client
  2. Planning permission
  3. Stakeholder management
  4. Evaluate risk and maximise opportunities
  5. Design-led
  6. Professional project management
  7. Contracting with purpose
  8. Supplying with style
  9. Quality counts
  10. Customer experience
  11. Employee experience
  12. Rave reviews
  13. Award-winning

These steps are illustrated further through a real-life project:
The Thatched Tavern in Maidencombe, Devon.

Starting from scratch: The Thatched Tavern Project

Our clients for The Thatched Tavern, the Lyndon family, were once scattered across the world – from the UK to Australia. They have come together again to transform and run a Devon countryside pub and live out their individual dreams, together. Through an unexpected fire and fraught with risk, gutxi helped make their dream of creating the ultimate Devon country pub experience a reality.

What happens when the kitchen of your pub burns down the day after exchanging contracts? If you are like owner Stephen Naylor, you see it as an opportunity.

Listening to your client’s plans for pub refurbishment

First and foremost, we worked with the family, listening to their ambitions to refurbish the pub. When our client told us they wanted to create the ultimate Devon country pub experience, we took the time to understand their vision, and how we could help them, ensuring their dream and our delivery of this project was aligned.

“The first thing we do with a client is walk around and listen, asking questions to truly understand the wants and needs of the customer, and their end user. There’s a lot to take in and you don’t want to jump to any early conclusions. Our experience means we can spot opportunities to increase efficiency within the pub that others might not see.”

Mark Green, Director, gutxi

Here are some benefits to listening carefully to your clients:

  • You will enhance project efficiency, resulting in increased profitability for everyone involved.
  • You will deliver the best bar and restaurant experience possible will ensure a return on your investment.

The ultimate pub experience is achieved when all of these steps are taken into consideration, creating the perfect bar and restaurant for your client and their customers to enjoy for years to come.

Mark Green

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Restaurant refurbishment success at The Thatched Tavern

Working with this client was an absolute pleasure as we leveraged our expertise in restaurant refurbishment to breathe new life into this venue. From designing the layout to choosing the perfect colour palette, every decision we made was carefully considered. The result was a stunning restaurant that serves as a testament to the power of collaboration and determination.

Planning permission for your pub refurbishment

When preparing for the planning stage, it’s critical to make sure your plans and consultations are legally compliant, and all stakeholders are kept informed. Planning permission is granted by the local council once neighbours have been consulted and pub refurbishment plans are submitted.

There are several stages to complete before submitting your design plans for planning permission: Pub owners must first conduct a thorough risk assessment and address all findings. This includes ensuring that pub neighbours are contacted and involved in the decision-making process during their pub refurbishment project and discuss any concerns or issues they might have.

Pub applicants must ensure that refurbishment plans meet all of the necessary requirements for pub design and construction, such as:

  • Meeting pub refurbishment requirements and complying with building regulations 
  • Ensuring pub designs are compliant with fire safety rules and codes, for example, egress routes, type of materials used, safe escape routes
  • Providing pub refurbishment plans that are accessible for community consultation

From specialist building research for listed buildings to mature tree preservation, the gutxi team is prepared to take on your planning challenges and see them through flawlessly.

The Thatched Tavern
Tha Thatched Tavern

Stakeholder management

Managing stakeholder expectations is essential for pub refurbishment projects, especially when pub neighbours are involved.

We provide regular updates on any changes made during pub refurbishment project development stages; this includes reducing noise

Your stakeholders extend beyond your clients and your neighbours, bringing in stakeholders in your refurbishment supply chain. You must engage your refurbishment contractors and your suppliers to make sure that delivering a project to exact specifications.

Our three tips for managing stakeholders are: 

  • Listen carefully, as stakeholders may have concerns or ideas about your pub refurbishment plans which you might not otherwise know about.
  • Ensure all of these opinions are heard and understood during pub design consultations to create a cohesive pub refurbishment vision.
  • Take all information on board during pub design consultations to ensure your pub refurbishing project is the best it can be for everyone involved.

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Evaluating risk and identifying opportunities

When we first arrive on site, we quickly identify the opportunities and challenges within the space. We used a mix of design and construction experience to work with the family and refurbishment trades to see the vision become a reality.

Case Study: The Thatched Tavern

At The Thatched Tavern, we encountered a number of risks:

When considering a pub refurbishment, it’s important to consider capacity in each area of the pub as a risk, because capacity will determine your turnover and revenue. It’s important to consider the capacity of each area of the pub, including the kitchen and bar areas.

You want to the pub refurbishment to support the food and drink choices and plan the space accordingly. Will you run a food-forward establishment with a range of menu preparations, will you offer a cocktail or craft beer bar?


What makes a good pub? What are the elements of the ultimate country pub experience?

A successful pub renovation project must provide a clear vision for the future of the business. The operations and services must be planned to satisfy pub clients’ expectations while still being well integrated to meet the owner’s needs as well as those of neighbouring businesses, suppliers, staff and contractors.

Tha Thatched Tavern Fabrics
The Thatched Tavern

Our team creates designs that exceed client expectations. We take time to work closely with clients on understanding what they want for each individual site’s unique challenges and opportunities before creating a solution.

At The Thatched Tavern, we designed the refurbishment to include a real fire and a stunning pub garden, with elevated under cover seating with sea views.

“Pubs are different things to different people”

Your pub refurbishment must also fit within the existing community, integrating the memories from current customers with the ambitions and dreams of what the pub could be for new customers.

There are many different types of pubs – gastro pubs, garden pubs, country pubs – some catering to local neighbourhoods, and other attracting tourism from further afield. All of these characteristics feed into and inform the design process to provide a seamless customer experience that feels comfortable.

“It’s about creating a distinctive look and feel that has a familiar, comfortable aesthetic that encourages customers to relax and enjoy their pub experience.”

Mark Green, Director, gutxi

At The Thatched Tavern, we wanted to create a pub that felt timeless. The understated design approach, using rich materials and texture allows the pub’s character to show through in the lighting, furniture, soft furnishings, and exquisite fittings. The pub embodies the colours and character of the Devon countryside and seaside and inspired us to create the ultimate country pub experience.


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Professional project management

Project management is fundamentally management of the time, costs and quality that determines successful delivery of a project. When working on a pub refurbishment, we manage on and off site, the suppliers, contractors, materials, stakeholders and importantly – the budgets.

Every project needs to be on time, on budget and of high quality. Our understanding of which of these is the priority at any given time will help when making decisions. This applies to the overall project but also individual choices about finer details.

At the start of the project, we establish the criteria for each of the fundamental constraints and understand the critical objectives in each case. For example, many of our leisure projects will want to be completed in time for the summer season. This date is often fixed and must be met. The cost of our working hours or paying for express delivery has less impact than loss of business due to not being finished on time.

In instances where the budget is fixed or limited there needs to be clarity on the options when unforeseen costs arise. The options are to

  • Leave time in the project programme to resolve the issue
  • Be prepared to reduce the scope, or
  • Find a cheaper alternative

A contingency sum is always recommended, between 5% and 20% of the contract value, depending on the complexity of the project. In our experience when budgets are tight, a contingency is the first thing to be omitted.

The above criteria apply to everyone in the project team and contractors and suppliers will be making the same judgements about time, cost, and quality. When we work with our project team, we listen to understand what works for them. If the work is difficult to deliver due to pressures of time or budget, it will affect the quality. Also, it’s important to be certain the quality standard you aspire to is within your contractor’s level of competency.

Refurbishment contractors: Contracting with purpose

Master carpenters, specialty decorators, builders, plumbers and fitters are contracted bespoke for each pub refurbishment to provide unrivalled local experience, working together as a team. We work with a range of contractors skilled at pub refurbishment to ensure the work is completed on time, on budget, to our exact design specification. Our contractors are not only skilled with decades of local knowledge; they are also fully insured; risk assessed and work well together as a team to deliver the refurbishment programme.

The Thatched Tavern

Most suppliers and contractors are willing, within reasonable parameters, to expand the services and products they offer. By building up good relationships with your project team you can give them time to consider and research solutions outside their regular work practices. Good relationships with suppliers and contractors are crucial when dealing with unforeseen challenges and most problems can be resolved if everyone works together.

Schedule of works, programme, and design specification

We provide each client and contractor a schedule of works, project programme, and specification. The more information you have, the better you can control the project outcome. The more information you can give your contractors and suppliers, the better they can understand what is expected to deliver the highest quality result.

Thatched Tavern Bottle

The Thatched Tavern Design Details

Learn why The Thatched Tavern is The Ultimate Devon Country Pub Experience…

Supplying with style

We worked with the owner of The Thatched Tavern, Stephen Naylor, to bring his vision for the pub and garden to life, and also carried out the works to the commercial kitchen as specified by Head Chef, Liam Murray. With all-new equipment supplied by GS Group, Liam was prepared to take forward the fresh, locally sourced produce that is a stamp of unquestioned quality from local Devon producers.

gutxi managed the whole project from the ground up and did a fantastic job. They chose GS Group to handle the kitchen design and equipment specification and together we sat down to look at the options.

Head chef Liam Murray

The Head Chef had carte blanche to create the kitchen of his dreams. Chef Liam had previous experience with Charvet, one of the finest brands of cooking equipment. It was also our brand of choice for the refurbishment as it offers dependability, uniformity, and performance in all commercial kitchens.

Liam Murray and team
Thatched Tavern Food

We were committed to making the change that the pub so desperately needed, and we went above and beyond to ensure that the plans and installations were carried out to the highest possible level, always keeping the client in mind.

In the pub restaurant and bar, all furniture, soft furnishings, and lighting schemes are created bespoke for the space, and fittings created specifically to be durable and hard wearing, fit for purpose for years to come.


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Quality counts

Quality is not just about materials. It’s an understanding of people, culture, environment, and market trends. We take pride in our craftsmanship, so we only use the highest quality professional products to ensure your premises are completed on time and to budget with minimal disruption. Our interior design services for restaurants, bars and cafés will transform your premises into a standout destination.

Case Study: The Thatched Tavern

We’ve transformed the dining area with luxury furnishings, and the highest quality fittings and finishes. Along the dining room walls are artistic, authentic images of our local suppliers, working in their element. These unique pictures tie the dining space to the fresh, local food offering in an elegant, understated way. The pub garden features festoon lighting that tastefully accentuates the garden’s mature trees, and large covered decking area.

Customer experience

The end customer must always be the primary reason behind any successful hospitality interior design. You’ve got to match that with making sure that everything in the back of house — the bar and the kitchen are laid out and can work properly or the result will be dissatisfied customers and staff members.

You can look good, but if it doesn’t work, you’re just going to end up with frustration.

Mark Green, Director, gutxi
Pouring a pint
Pub menu

First impressions are everything

When working in London years ago, we learned how to understand everything about the pub experience from the user perspective, from when they arrive at the pub, (what do they see from the front door) – those first impressions are made in seconds.

The Thatched Tavern, Maidencombe – A comfortable, consistent pub and dining experience

Working with the team, we commissioned all building works, signage, branding, menus and our website from the same source. This offers a uniquely consistent customer journey, from first exploring the website, through the completely redesigned and refurbished premises – even the wallpaper is handmade by the same designer that crafted the menu. It’s a cohesive approach that is comfortable and reassuring for customers, made bespoke for The Thatched Tavern and no one else.

Stephen Naylor, Co-owner, The Thatched Tavern

Some decisions that go into each pub refurbishment are:

Is the pub going to be expensive or casual, contemporary, modern or relaxed? Whatever it might be, a customer will start making assumptions right from the front door. In the case of the pub — the way the front gardens kept; what is the sign like? All those things make an immediate impact.

Here’s some questions you can ask yourself to better understand the customer journey:

  • What is the first thing your customer sees?
  • Are customers going to stand in place and wait?
  • Will the customer experience any points of confusion or uncertainty?

When you think about the customer journey –for example, have you ever stood in in a restaurant and thought, “What do I do now? Should I be here or there? Is someone going to talk to me?” All these circumstances create tension, and you want to design the interior for maximum customer comfort.

Most people who like pubs — will always want to go to the pub. And, you’ll have a certain pub in mind when you decide to go …. whether it’s a busy corner pub or a country pub or a foodie pub. Pubs bring something special that you don’t get anywhere else. Bars and pubs in other countries are great, but there’s something quite unique about an English pub which evokes an emotional connection we should treasure.

Mark Green, Director
Pub patron
Gastropub food

Employee Experience

What are employee experiences and how do you improve them? It’s all to do with the layout of equipment, and the need to make sure that:

  • everything’s within easy reach
  • staff can interact with customers easily
  • there’s enough space to get the work done.

At the Thatched Tavern, it’s quite a low volume pub, they’re not four deep at the bar, and the bar is not particularly long. If you look at bars at holiday parks, where the bar could be 10 to 15 metres long, and there might be four or five people working behind the bar – you would set that out in sections, so that the people behind the bar don’t have to move too far to get what they want. You break it down, so that all the red wine is not at one end – you split it up. It’s about making sure that ergonomics and anthropometrics are built into pub refurbishment design and contributes to the overall employee experience.

Case study: The Thatched Tavern, Maidencombe

Investing in our team

We encourage team development through a fully funded apprenticeship scheme with eight team members qualifying for supervisor, chef, and operations management roles. Training days educate staff about the wine list, and provide the opportunity to taste every dish, underpinning our passion for fine food and drink while bringing every team member along on the journey.

Stephen Naylor, Co-owner, The Thatched Tavern

Watch the project showreel

Learn how we transformed The Thatched Tavern in Maidencombe into The Ultimate Devon Country Pub experience.

Rave Reviews

Attracting 5-star reviews is critical for success in the hospitality sector, and we feel pub refurbishment is fundamental to great ratings and reviews. we are pub refurbishment experts with an unrivalled track record of delivering pub refurbishments that leave customers raving about their experience at your business.

Attracting tourists

As the ultimate Devon pub experience, The Thatched Tavern now attracts tourists from abroad, and all over the UK. Tourists come in midweek for a meal and then come back again on a Friday or Saturday as well – so they are a big hit with people visiting the area. A quick scan of Trip Advisor shows reviews from users in Rotherham, Surrey, Cambridge – and also Saudi Arabia and Greece! The pub is looking forward to more travel opening up in the coming months so they can welcome even more visitors.

Community matters

Local customers are important to the business, especially over the quiet periods, outside of tourist seasons. It’s great to have a buzzing community of welcoming locals enjoying a drink in the bar and dining on fantastic fresh meals in the restaurant. The Thatched Tavern’s winning formula of fresh, locally sourced food and drink, comfortable spaces for every occasion, stunning views and a great location mean that they can trade successfully. That means a lot in this tough trading environment, with pressures of staffing and Covid restrictions, and puts firmly behind them the fire that occurred on Day One.

Happy pub customer
Gastro pub food

Meaningful relationships, built to last

The pub has close ties with local suppliers, and everyone from bar staff to kitchen staff to the owners collaborate, and importantly, listen to suppliers. They work together to continually refine and curate their menus, offering the ultimate Devon country pub experience. They are always working to continuously improve, meeting with suppliers to understand, learn, and improve the offer to our customers and visitors.

When we do well, our suppliers do well – and that’s great for Devon.

Stephen Naylor, co-owner, The Thatched Tavern

Winning awards

The Thatched Tavern have gone from strength to strength, winning awards from:

  • The Guardian “10 of the best south Devon pubs with beer gardens”. Find Out More >
  • Devon Live “Pub’s stunning new beer garden voted best in Devon by regulars”. Find Our More >
  • Trip Advisor “Travellers Choice 2021”. Find Out More >

Being nominated for, and winning awards is a fantastic opportunity, and one that can help The Thatched Tavern to stand out from the crowd.

It’s a public way of showing that the newly refurbished business is growing and investing in their customer experience, improving year-on-year. Awards are also recognition for the staff that work hard to provide an exceptional pub experience.

We’re very proud of our team and we want them be recognised for their great work, too!”

Stephen Naylor, co-owner, The Thatched Tavern

Pub refurbishment experts

The Thatched Tavern project resulted in vibrant functional areas: Modern architecture that provides quality, distinct functional areas for food and drink occasions, celebrations and experiences of every type. The pub is elegant, attractive, and full of personality.

We have 20 years’ expertise in pub refurbishment planning, design, and construction. We bring the latest thinking in pub refurbishment design to every commission we undertake. We understand that pub owners want their pub vision to be carried through flawlessly with low risk at every stage of the process. We work closely with you throughout pub refurbishments to ensure your project is built not only on time but within budget too. We have the skills and experience to manage your pub refurbishment project and create your very own ultimate pub experience.

We want to hear from you

Contact us for a free on-site consultation, where we will listen to you, and help you bring your pub refurbishment project to reality. Ring us on 01803 295959 or email us at for a same day response.