"Energy costs are astronomical in any business. When installing an ambient beer cooler was suggested to me it seemed to tick all the boxes. It was like a blinding light. It was such a simple idea but it made such common sense – I had to look at it."
He bought the Bell Inn in July 2015 with fiancee and business partner Sarah Watts. He had run the mark@street fine dining restaurant in the nearby town of Nailsworth. After four years the 24-seat venue had become so successful that "we felt we had outgrown it and we decided to look for a new challenge."
Energy costs are a major issue for the pub and restaurant trade and it is estimated that up to a quarter of a pub's energy bill is accounted for by its refrigeration requirements. Publicans, breweries and restaurant managers are always looking for more cost-effective ways to cool their cellars. The J & E Hall ambient beer cooler contains no refrigerants and by doing so this allows it to employ a greener method of cooling. This in turn helps to reduce servicing costs and also extends the life of the main cellar cooling system.
The ambient beer cooler cuts in when outside temperatures fall to 10°C and below, which means it will be busy for most months of the year. It draws in fresh, cool air from outside via a fan and ducting kit.
The Bell Inn is a distinctive Cotswold Stone building which was renovated in late 2013. "We cater for local drinkers in one area but it has also become a very food-driven pub and we can seat about 60 people in the restaurant. We are in a lovely little Cotswold village which is very hilly. We are the only pub in the village which is good from a trading point of view but it puts a responsibility on us to keep it going and keep it vibrant for everyone."
The installation was carried out by TK Refrigeration which operates within a 50-mile radius of its Gloucester base and employs 10 people. The unit was supplied by FSW of Gloucester.
TK Refrigeration's managing director Tim Rogers, who is celebrating 40 years in the industry, said:
"We suggested an ambient beer cooler to Mark at The Bell Inn and he jumped at the idea straight away. He was absolutely thrilled with it. The fact it is an above-ground cellar simplified the task. We installed it on an outside wall and it operates in conjunction with the existing cellar cooling system.
"The J & E Hall ambient beer cooler is compatible with any existing system. It's a reasonably simple job to install and there is always a way of wiring into a control circuit. It's a new product but it is one that I trust. I am not somebody that would fit something I didn't believe in. We are also keen to help our customers capitalise on as much energy saving as possible.
"Maintenance to the ambient beer cooler is minimal. It has an internal filter which has to be changed every six months, or annually, depending on the location. We are getting a good vote of confidence from people we are talking to about the beer coolers and from people who are installing them."