We’re often asked for recommendations of pubs in Leicester and those that are run by The Beautiful Pubs Collective are always at the top of our list. The Rutland & Derby, Knight & Garter and The Forge have become key figures in Leicester’s hospitality scene and this year sees the team behind them celebrate 13 years in business.
The man who started it all is Sam Hagger, who plays a key role across all 3 venues, and is a big supporter of Leicester and its independent scene. As their milestone birthday approaches this weekend, we caught up with Sam to find out some of his highlights and see how he’s planning to celebrate.
As The Beautiful Pubs Collective turns 13 years old, can you begin to pick out any highlights?
Wow. that’s a tricky opening question as there have genuinely been so many, three that immediately spring to mind though; definitely, opening Knight & Garter back in 2017, a culmination of everything we’d learned to date & the sheer pleasure (even now) of watching people’s reactions to the venue, food & drinks for the first time! Secondly, in 2019 when my team’s nomination earned me a finalist position as ‘Ambassador of the Industry’ at The Caterer’s People Awards and finally & more recently, last Christmas when despite our businesses being closed due to the pandemic having the privilege to help ensure over 50 Leicestershire families in difficult circumstances were able to enjoy a full Christmas day dinner, something we are extremely proud to be committing to again this year.
How did the Collective first begin?
Well back in 2008 as a fresh-faced 24-year-old, having enjoyed successfully running pubs for other people, I took over The Forge at Glenfield & really just with three focuses; consistently good food & drink, community & people. None of our successes ever came overnight, along the way there have been plenty of sweat & tears but our reason for growth & ultimately more beautiful pubs has always been our desire to apply our love of hospitality to different social occasions whilst creating opportunities for our teams to grow.
How do you manage to give each of your 3 venues different personalities whilst still maintaining the level of quality?
*Laughs* If I’m honest this is probably the hardest part post-lockdown, because each pub’s offering is so completely different & sourcing everything is such a challenge. Aside from that, we’ve built incredible teams, who are self-driven by our values & their love of hospitality combined with our product; we only ever start with the good stuff, it might cost us more to deliver but that’s always half the consistency battle.
Are you allowed to have a favourite between The Forge, The Rutland & Derby and The Knight & Garter?
Absolutely not, the teams would never forgive me! However, I started my career at The Forge at 16 & it is my local so I probably have soft spot for it!
If it was our first visit to all 3 venues, which item should we order off the menu at each?
That’s another tricky one, because I think all our pubs are equally as great just for drinking in! Probably, Poutine at The Rutland & Derby, Brunch at The Forge on a Saturday & Invisible Chips at Knight & Garter!
You’ve done a lot of work around supporting hospitality staff and encouraging their career development, how important is that to you as Founder of the company?
It’s paramount! My role is definitely about making our people successful. If they are successful, then of course the business will be too! But in addition, supporting our people with not just work issues is so important too, it’s not just about me being supportive or accessible as an employer, it’s about showing clear pathways to a whole range of support for our people & that’s why our relationships to trade charities are so important to me.
Tell us about Invisible Chips…
Invisible Chips is one of the ways we are helping to build awareness of Hospitality Action, one of the charities we are partnered with, helping to support the amazing work they do by selling literal invisible chips on our menu at Knight & Garter. If you’re ever visiting & hear elated cries from the open kitchen it’s because our team are so delighted every time a portion is sold.
How will you be celebrating the birthday?
By doing what we do best with some special random acts of kindness along the way, we are also hosting some team events to reward our incredible people & there’s a very special secret party for the people that have supported us so much over the past 12 months.
How has Leicester changed since you opened your first venue?
For me the difference is night & day. It’s a funny one because this question always evokes such opinion in the pubs! For me Leicester is developing at such a rate, albeit slightly hampered by Covid. Everywhere you turn there is something new and exciting popping up! The real key to our city though is to get out there, move around it & support it.
Where is your favourite place to go for dinner or drinks other than your own venues?
I obviously love my own pubs but really enjoy exploring Leicester’s other great independents. Work is extremely busy right now but I’m always driven to return to places with faces of great hospitality such as Sergio at San Carlo on Granby Street & Rino at Oggi on London Road.
You’re also going to be taking part in Pedalling for Pubs, tell us a little more about what it involves?
So, in March next year I’ve convinced myself to join an amazing group of hospitality leaders in taking on the weather, terrain & the distance of cycling 335km from the north to the south of Jordan to raise money & awareness for two more incredible industry charities, The Licensed Trade Charity & Only a Pavement Away. I must admit I’m incredibly nervous, but excited & honoured to be able to participate in it.
How can people support you?
Probably, by praying for me but by supporting my Just Giving Page; https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sam-hagger ‘Thank You’
Planning a visit? You can find The Rutland & Derby on Millstone Lane, LE1, The Knight & Garter on Hotel Street, LE1 and The Forge in Glenfield, LE3. Full information on all the pubs is available on the Beautiful Pubs website.