The idea of running a pub sounds terrific. From the customer’s side of the bar it would seem that all you need to do is be able to lean on your elbow and shoot the breeze with the punters. Pulling a pint through a stiff tap is surely about as tough as it gets…
The fact is, your friendly pub landlord makes it look easy. They are in the service industry after all and their primary focus is to give you a stress-free, relaxing, convivial experience. The reality is, of course, that it’s far more challenging than that; nevertheless, it’s great when you’ve got a thriving pub full of people enjoying a good time.
Running a pub is something of a way of life. You’re likely to live on the premises and you should expect long days with lots on your plate – not to mention the occasional difficult customer.
The role of pub landlord is directed to a great extent by the Licensing Act 2003 that focuses on: the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.
The premises needs to be licensed (the pubco or brewery usually holds the license) and, as the premises supervisor, you must also hold a personal license – achieved through training.
Employing the right staff is essential to the smooth running of the business but you’ll need to ensure that they too, have the correct training. Mandatory, for example, is that all members of staff understand their obligations, as outlined by the Licensing Act. They’ll need to understand your identification criteria, and contribute to the fulfilment of all relevant legislation. This is where Service-leavers can start to apply their leadership and project management skills to good effect.
Inevitably you’ll have money (and potential profit) tied up in your stock. You need to make sure you have enough of the correct stock to meet customer demand (ordering more in good time) without over-stocking – which can strangulate cash flow.
Food and drink
Part of the vision for your pub business might be to offer food, be it traditional Sunday roasts or hot snacks. In either case, this will also take careful planning, not least because you’ll need kitchen staff.
Hiring experienced staff and ideally a head chef will go some way towards you being able to delegate the responsibility of running the kitchen. You’ll still need to work on the menus with the kitchen staff, in the same way as you do with the drinks – to make sure that meals/snacks represent good value but add sufficiently to profitability.
When you run a pub, the ‘buck stops with you’. Day-to-day you may have to roll your sleeves up and get involved in cleaning duties, maintaining equipment and any other odd-jobs that need attention. That’s before you’ve had the phone call from a member of bar staff who can’t do their shift, for whatever reason, this evening!
Even with all of these variables in mind, you’ll still need to keep an eye on the business plan and adjust it accordingly as well as trying to develop a marketing strategy to take you towards new areas of profit.
It won’t do you any harm to have a head for figures or business but it’s arguably not as important as being sociable, personable, welcoming and of course, professional. As with all career choices, the way to get the most out of running a pub, is to immerse yourself in the industry and enjoy it.
Being financially prepared
A business plan that outlines how your business will make profit is essential and should include all factors such as: product costs, utilities, staff, marketing, business costs, training costs, insurance and equipment etc. There’s a great deal to think about but the organisational skills learned in the Forces will doubtless prove useful.
Pub Landlord Training
Before you open a pub, you’ll need to successfully apply for a personal license, and complete some mandatory training:
- Level 2 Award for Personal License Holders to obtain a Personal License (APLH, or the Scottish alternative if you wish to open a pub in Scotland).
- Pre-Entry Awareness Training (PEAT), which is provided by the British Institute of Inn-Keeping.
Further optional training can also prove invaluable in areas like: business strategy, cellar management and customer services, for example.
Freehold, leasehold or tenancy?
Freehold: You will own the pub outright. You’ll probably need a mortgage but the advantages usually include good discounts from suppliers.
Leasehold: You take on the right to occupy the pub for a fixed term. A lease might be created by a landlord such as a brewer, or sold or assigned by another pub owner.
Tenancy: You assume the right to occupy the pub for a short-term period, usually up to three years. Tenancies will usually include a training package and ongoing business support, whereas free houses will not. (They do not attract stamp duty either.) In all cases, you may need to consider the ‘tie’, an arrangement where you have to buy from a specific brewery or pubco – rather than selecting your own suppliers.
Being a pub landlord
Iain Jubbs Served in the Royal Artillery for 15 years before leaving in 1991. Since then he’s worked in a number of roles connected with hospitality. Three years ago he became a pub landlord with Batemans.
How did you become a pub landlord?
Batemans approached us to take on the Dog and Bone pub in Lincoln – and they then asked if we’d be interested in taking on The Treaty of Commerce pub on the high street as well. Having an Army background, I’m quite adventurous; I’ll try anything if I think it’s financially viable.
Batemans contact you after two and a half years (of your three year lease) and ask if you’d like to stay – and it’s my choice. My only obligations are that I have insurance and buy my product from Batemans. Batemans are good people.
What attributes do Service-leavers bring to the role of landlord?
I’d like to think I’m quite level-headed. My advice for people leaving the Military is to go in with your eyes wide open. Look at your business plan. Talk with people. In three years I’ve learned a lot.
My pub’s always immaculate. I get complimented on the state of the toilets! I work hard and I’m happy. I’ve got two brothers who were in the Army who, without doubt, could run a pub.
What’s the toughest part of the role?
The (long) hours and making sure it works financially. Make sure you know where your budget is and that your cash flow is working.
But, I’m my own boss. If anybody’s thinking of going into the pub trade and they’re in Lincoln, come and visit us. I’m always happy to help.