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The past few weeks to some behind these scenes have been a waste. The new head chef has decided to take a job elsewhere, exclusively it appears due to better pay. This is less than a week until the Hay Festival - a time when Hay with its population of around 1800 sees nearly 200 000 visitors in 10 days.

I wasn't surprised. For some reason I get a gut feeling about chefs within a couple of days - and sadly I've been right 100% of the time. But one thing I really did appreciate with having a chef was getting time to do my job 'managing' better. By being able to delegate and work with someone running the kitchen, I've had time to train all the new staff in things as simple as Irish coffees, line cleaning, describing beer and tasting the bottled beers we have in. I'm sorry, but there's no way in hell you can sell a range of American, Belgian and Czech beers without having a small taste.

So now I have bar staff that are fully confident in checking a beer if it gets returned - recently the FastCask Bank's Ruby Mild turned sour and flat on day 2 of being on sale. I'm immensely proud of the staff being confident enough to say 'you're right, I'm not happy selling that, let me turn the clip around and get you a pint of something different. Would you like to try a taster first?'. That happened yesterday. Today, whilst in service, a shout came through 'the Bank's mild has gone'. 'Clean it and get Dorothy (Goodbody, May Queen) on' I said, happy in the knowledge that because I'd had the time to show every aspect of changing a barrel and the line cleaning process, they would do it successfully. Quizzing them afterwards, they had.

This may sound like nothing special, but in the past the beer would have stayed off until I finished in the kitchen, at which point instead of taking an hour off I'd be line cleaning and getting the new beer on. In my hour off today I got to see my son for 20 minutes - that's clearly a good news story in my book.

This also ties in with a bigger issue I see facing the trade as a whole - finding good staff. I'm a firm believer in hiring the attitude and teaching the skills, but it's getting harder and harder to find someone willing to do their job. I don't even mean going the extra mile - a KP who will sweep and mop the floor for example, rather than drag a dirty mop behind him on the way out. A barman who will check the toilets have enough towels in them and are presentable every hour without being asked.

The team I've got at the moment are wonderful - I'm genuinely proud of them and tell them so. I also tell them when they've got it wrong. And they tell me how they think we can improve - it's fantastic to write up a menu and have one of the kitchen staff offer a better way of doing a dish, and one of the runners ask for one of the desserts to be swapped for a better seller. I've even got bar staff choosing which guest ales come on now - and nearly everyone who works here wants to be involved with the beer and food matching meals coming up. You can't pay for keenness, you can just try to nuture it when you see it.

But to see it you need to spend time with the staff. And that's practically impossible when your day is full end to end of laptops, fryers, cellars and supplier reps. Finding time to manage, I feel, is one of the most important aspects of a good publican.