Successful innovation is born out of experience, not just invention, two leading gastropub entrepreneurs have claimed.

With just three days for people to enter the Best Business Innovation Awards, Paul Salisbury and Paul Hales said the best innovators are the ones that already have experience of their market.

The pair both worked for independent pub and restaurant chains before founding the Classic Country Pub Design Company in 2002.

Aided by Mr Salisbury's wife Sue, an ex-fashion buyer, the firm has gone on to build a reputation for bringing pubs back to life with a combination of restaurant service, modern interiors and quality food.

"It is the industry experience that Paul and I have, combined with Sue's flair for design that has made the formula so successful," Mr Salisbury said.

"Having three influences has been our strength and it's something that other people don't have."

The company now owns five pubs in the West Midlands - all of which feature in the Michelin pub guide. It has also consulted on the design of other pubs nationally and has an annual turnover of over £6 million.

"When we started, the gastropub idea didn't really exist," said Mr Salisbury.

"Paul and I had been working in the industry and realised there was a gap in the market for pubs with the same standards as restaurants.

"We decided to develop a new pub concept that offered table service, had decor that was more feminine and fashionable and had a more cosmopolitan feel by employing staff from places such as Australia and South Africa."

In partnership with pub owner David Singleton, the company has recently completed a £750,000 facelift of The White Swan in Edgbaston.

The venue for this year's Best Business Innovation Awards, The White Swan uses natural wood, slate floors and organic fabrics to bring the "country into the city".

Mr Salisbury said success in the pub industry came down to understanding the building and its location.

"You've got to be sympathetic to how the building works, but not be afraid to kick holes in the wall if you need to get more light in," he said.

"It's also got to be in the right location and pitched to your customers. Our pubs are flexible so that people can come in and spend five pounds on food or £50 - we also target fairly affluent areas of Midlands because that's where our core customers live."

Mr Salisbury and Mr Hales pride themselves on the fact that they still 'muck-in' when visiting their pubs and they will use the experience to learn exactly what their customers want.

The company is now looking to extend its reach, with a new boutique hotel planned next to its Baraset Barn venue in Stratford-upon-Avon.

"It's always nerve-racking when you try to develop something new," said Mr Salisbury.

"When we renovated the Baraset Barn, it was the first place we had done that wasn't a pub.

"But it has been really busy and successful and we know that there is the demand in the area for a small hotel."