Charles Brierley bought the derelict White Hart Inn for £200,000 in 1994. A year later, after an investment of £450,000, it reopened as a restaurant, brasserie and bar, which the Manchester Evening Post heralded as "one of Greater Manchester's top five restaurants".
The 12-bedroom inn then won Lancashire Life's Pub of the Year award in 1995.
Brierley's first steps into the restaurant industry came at the age of 15, when he served as a banquet waiter at events venue Ashton Town Hall in Ashton-under-Lyne.
After leaving school, he enrolled on a management training programme with Embassy Hotels, which was then bought by Jarvis Hotels. He later worked at Leofric hotel, Coventry, and Parkfield hotel, Wolverhampton, before setting off to travel around Asia in 1997 for 11 months.
"I was interested in running my own business, but I wanted to pitch it at a high-quality level and felt my experiences to date weren't quite enough to deliver this," he says.
So after returning from his travels he worked as a waiter at Inverlochy Castle, one of Scotland's most renowned hotels. A year later, at the tender age of 25, he bought the White Hart.
Since winning Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Pub Operator of the Year award in 2000, Brierley and his establishment have received plaudits from the Good Food Guide, the AA Pub Guide and Which? magazine.
Head chef and business partner John Rudden scooped the Pub and Restaurant Chef of the Year award from the Craft Guild of chefs last year. Brierley claims his close working relationship with Rudden is one of the secrets behind the success of the business. "It means I don't have to worry about the kitchen," he says. "We run five different operations within the business, so I have a large management team to take care of it for me."
One of these operations is the function room, which can hold 400 diners and opened in May 2005. It has been Brierley's biggest development, costing £1.2m. As well as catering for weddings, they have recently hosted a James Bond ball, and wine and food tastings.
"Running a restaurant and function room is very satisfying," says Brierley. "You're creating memories for people. If you can make it special, it feels good. Any business that doesn't focus on the customer tends to fail."
By James Gallagher
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