The Instagram-friendly Telford pub booming with customers and social media viral video

As pubs continue to battle the cost of living crisis, the Shropshire Star continues its Love Your Local series which celebrates our local inns.

The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford..
The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford..

The Ugly Duckling in Telford has become a hit on social media after a TikTok video went viral, gaining more than five million views.

But it's not just a hit online, it is a very popular establishment with locals and has become known for serving great food and drink.

Julie Hodnett, 43, from Telford, is the manager, having first started working there as a waitress. She shares what it is like running the venue in Long Lane, and how they have used the Covid pandemic to adapt the business and become essentially what is known as 'Instagrammable'.

Julie says: "I have worked here since it opened in August 2016, worked my way up and became the manager in 2018.

"The pub is completely independent and the owners have other businesses, and so they allow me and Sam, the owner's son to run it as our own, and so we do a great job of it together.

"The experience has been amazing since taking over as manager. I never thought I had it in me to do it, but they (the owners) obviously saw something in me to take over, but it was never intentional or the plan to do so - it just happened.

"I love doing it and I thrive off the pressure. It is not an easy job at all but it is enjoyable and the rewards are great.

The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford..
The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford..

"During the pandemic we had a lot of time to think and try to come up with new ideas and figure out what it is customers want. We wanted to make it a destination place for the younger generation, and we sort of changed the business to target them but whilst also catering for everybody else at the same time - not forgetting anyone.

"So we used that time during Covid, and the grants that the business received to invest back into the business and completed a big refurbishment. We put everything back into the pub and made it a success.

"The aesthetics are really important for the younger generation and they like things to be 'Instagrammable', everything has to look good - the food, the drinks - and we have really got that."

The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford.. In Picture: Ellie-Jai Hodnett.

Pubs and bars are catering to the younger Instagram-type generation with trendy looks and quirky cocktails, and Julie explains that the business is doing the same, especially by serving cocktails. These include bottomless brunches with cocktails. While all this adds to the aspect of being 'Instagrammable', it appears to be successful in a business-sense too.

The 'bottomless brunches' are something that has become a major hit for the Ugly Duckling, Julie adds: "The bottomless brunches are hugely popular, and this is indicated by the fact that we are booked up for the next six weeks for them!

"We do them on Saturdays and people love them. And on Sundays we are pretty much fully booked every weeks too for our Sunday lunches, everyone loves coming over and eating here."

The Ugly Duckling has a wide variety of food items on the menu including pub classics, grills, but also delicious foods such as seafood, and much more.

The video that went viral on TikTok and is currently on over five million views was a playful parody on customer complaints, a trend that businesses on the video sharing platform have been making, making light-hearted jokes of the enquiries and jokes.

Julie says the idea was from her 19-year-old daughter Ellie, who is also the bar manager.

"Ellie knows what people want in terms of cocktails and she helps to bring that youthfulness to the place," explains Julie.

"The idea for the TikTok video was a bit of tongue in cheek fun, We never want to slag customers off but it was just a bit of light hearted fun about things people will say or make complaints about.

The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford.. In Picture: Ellie Rushall.

"We never expected it to blow up like this, and it has had an impact on the business! Everyone has been talking about it.

"We had a gas man come in to do some work and he said he saw the video - it is nice to go viral but for the right reasons.

"We encourage to grow the social media, and she knows what people want and what works.

"There are plans to make more videos, especially a dad joke one which should be some more fun."

Covid was of course a tough period for the hospitality industry with forced closures, and then restrictions on how customers could be served, but staff at the Ugly Duckling used this time to revise their business, and sine then it has escalated and grown.

The Ugly Duckling, Long Lane, Telford..

Julie says: "We have actually gone from strength to strength since the pandemic. We put the government grants back into the business and did a massive refurbishment.

"Of course things could always be better, especially with the energy crisis now but we are holding our own."

The Ugly Duckling and staff are having a great time in running the business, and reviews across Google and Tripadvisor show how popular it is with many positive reviews.

Julie added: "There is no one around here like this place, and that is not being biased but we are so proud of the work we do, have done and how we are doing.

"We do functions with a private area outside bar with stretch tents, this is available for hire and we also do festivals coming up later in the year, and we will have our garden area opening at the end of April for the Spring Summer time."

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News