10 Minute Guide to Becoming a Pub Landlord

Many of us dream of running our own pub. What are the keys to making the dream a successful reality?

Becoming a publican is seen by many as the ultimate lifestyle business. But there is far more to it than opening up, pulling some pints in a friendly atmosphere and then walking upstairs to bed.

Today, the pub business is in a perilous state. Increasing prices, laws relating to smoking and drink-driving and a wider choice for consumers have all put pubs on the back foot. According to the Campaign for Real Ale, 27 UK pubs close down every week.

However, it is not all bad news. Pubs that are prepared to move with the times can still thrive as important community hubs and provide a good income and a rewarding lifestyle.

In any business endeavour, it is important to have the basics in place from the outset, and a comprehensive pub insurance policy needs to be at the top of the list. This can be tailored to meet your exact requirements, including employer’s liability (which is a legal requirement if you employ staff), stock, your personal possessions and even business income.

With the necessary insurance in place, you are ready to take your first steps into the world of the pub landlord.

Owning a Free House

If your dream is to own your very own pub, then this means purchasing a free house. The pub is yours, nobody is telling you how to run it and you can purchase your food and drinks from wherever you like.

It sounds great, but of course it involves a great deal of investment. It can also be daunting for the first time publican.

Tenancy and Lease Deals

Many pubs are owned by breweries, pub groups or management companies, and these are called “tied houses.” These come in all shapes and sizes, from long-term leases where you have almost complete autonomy, to tenancies where you are effectively working for the owner as a live-in manager.

Of course, the type and terms of the lease or tenancy also have an impact on how much of your own money you need to invest in the business. One thing is for certain though – for the majority of first-time landlords, it makes sense to learn the business with the backing and support that a tenancy or lease brings with it.

Finding the right pub

Whether you are looking for a freehold or a tenancy, there is no shortage of pubs available, so take your time to find the right one for you.

You probably have a vision of the sort of thing you are looking for, whether it is a secluded village local or a vibrant city-centre haunt.

Take your time, and view as many options as possible. It is useful to make a checklist to cover the basics that you need to know about. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Condition of the property
  • Financial performance
  • Customer demographics
  • Recent history
  • Local competitors

Make a business plan

When you have identified the pub of your dreams, you need a firm idea of what you are going to do to make it a success. Create a business plan, both to clarify your own thoughts and also to “sell” yourself to the brewer or pub company, if you are looking at a tied house.

Keep the plan realistic. While it is great to have ideas that will improve the pub, you also need to be mindful of how it has made its money up till now.

For example, if you are considering a village pub that is making good money on drinks sales but does not serve meals, you might suggest upgrading the kitchen and offering a full menu. This is fine, until you find that your customer base is turned off by their friendly local turning into what they see as a restaurant, and they leave in their droves.

Any changes you suggest need to be caveated by consultation with the existing customer base, and for the first few months at least, the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is well worth bearing in mind!

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