New owners of historic Fife inn plan to give away business to staff

The Shoregate, opening at the end of April, brings a new lease of life to a C-listed hostelry in the heart of Crail’s beautiful conservation area.

Unusually, part of the business plan involves awarding shares in the business each year to the successful applicants for roles of general manager and head chef, leading to eventual ownership, and a profit-share scheme for all employees, based on reputational success.

Trading as variations of The East Neuk Hotel since at least 1890, the building had suffered from many years of under-investment.

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The Shoregate in Crail is in the final stages of restoration, and is recruiting now ahead of opening at the end of April.

“When we bought the building in the autumn of 2019 we knew that quite a bit of work would be involved but we’d hoped that a few months of refurbishment would mean we could be up and running prior to a phased approach for doing the rest of the work” said co-owner Damon Reynolds.

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“Our architects advised it might make more sense to try and do as much as possible in one go so we got full permission to renovate the building inside and out and were all set to appoint contractors when Covid hit.”

Damon‘s husband and co-owner Nicholas Frost continued: “When work could finally begin later in October that year, the project had grown into a major restoration, but we had also had the time to reflect on our priorities and we realised that the key to our success would be building a team that would benefit personally from the success of The Shoregate and also give something back to the community.

“As such, our head chef and general manager, rather than just be employees, will both start to build up a share in the business they will help to create and eventually take over completely. We intend that all our kitchen, bar, and restaurant staff will receive performance bonuses and be part of a profit share scheme. Our success will be their success.”

The desire to be giving something back doesn’t end with the staff. The Shoregate will also have four bedrooms, and with demand for accommodation high for the upcoming 2022 Golf Open Championship in nearby St Andrews, Damon and Nicholas have decided to auction the rooms once they’re ready and donate the extra offered above a minimum reserve B&B rate to various local charities.

Nicholas said: “It’s always tempting to just charge what you can, especially after a large initial outlay, but it’s also a one-off opportunity to raise money for the community. We’re in this for the next 10 or 20 years, The Open is just for a week. We can do well and still help out.”

Planning from day one to be giving away your successful business may seem foolhardy but for Damon and Nick it makes perfect sense.

“We’ll retain ownership of the building and stand to benefit in the future from the rental income and rise in the value of the property that being a popular restaurant and bar will bring,” said Nick.

“The Shoregate provides an amazing opportunity to create something that will reward us, our staff, and the village for a long time to come. We can’t wait to get open.”

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