The industry and who it’s suited to
Have you ever dreamed of escaping the rat race and heading for the quiet life to run a country pub? Or do think the social scene and sense of community of a friendly town pub is right down your street? If so, you’re not alone.
Despite a fall in the number of public houses of late, a pub is still a popular businesses to buy - and it’s not surprising when you look at the size of the market. As of 2008, there were over 55,000 pubs in the UK.
But there’s more to running a pub than simply chatting with the locals and pulling the odd pint. Before you invest your money there are some important considerations and choices to make.
What is it?
The pub is probably one of the best-known industries in Britain. Millions of us count ourselves as pubgoers. Over a quarter of the adult population visit the pub at least once a week and they’re not just there for the booze.
Pubs are popular places to meet people. In research from Mintel, the market research company, 38% of pubgoers said they chose a pub for its atmosphere and 26% for the customers. Only 20% were worried about the choice of beer. So to make your business a success, creating an atmosphere in which people want to meet is one of the major challenges.
One way is by providing food. Pubs are currently the number one choice for eating out in the UK with nine out of ten pubs serving food. The business is worth billions. It’s not just the traditional steak and kidney pie either. You can now get French, Italian and even oriental cuisine.
Pubs also provide an astonishing range of entertainment. Many host live music, stand-up comedy or quizzes. Others simply let customers amuse themselves with pool, darts, big-screen sports or even ten pin bowling.
On a wider scale, pubs in residential areas, whether in the town or country, often play an important role in the community. Many sports teams are based around the local pub. They are important local employers and sometimes provide other community services such as post offices, doctor’s surgeries or youth clubs.
Who is it suited to?
Landlords are drawn from all walks of life: business, the police, the armed forces, shops, and, of course, other pubs. The variety of different pubs means that there will be one to suit your tastes.
More important than your previous occupation are the skills you have and your personality. “Drive and determination are key,” says John Walker, deputy director of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII). “People have a romantic notion of what running a pub is about. It’s a difficult job with extremely long hours. You might get a drinks delivery at 6.00am and then be working until after midnight.”
If you are running it with your partner, the routine may put an enormous strain on your relationship. Not all couples are suited to working together for 14-18 hours a day. It is also extremely important that you like dealing with people. “Licensees are a friend, counsellor and confidante to their customers. Working with alcohol, they also need a strong personality to deal firmly with customers if they get out of order,” says Walker.
Modern pub owners also have to be commercially aware. They are effectively the managing director of their business.
This entails maintaining a high level of customer service and also managing the actions of your clients. Often tact and firmness are required because your licence and livelihood depends on their good behaviour. You will manage a close knit team of staff, so you will have to keep abreast of employment law, management techniques and training. You will also have to keep a close eye on the finances.
You will need to learn about licensing law as well as health and safety and food hygiene. Finally, as a figure of responsibility in the community, you may find yourself working with the police and other local authorities to combat crime and public disorder through schemes such as Pub Watch.