Marston's Landlord outside pub

Why do former retailers make such great pub landlords? 

If you’ve worked at a managerial level in the retail sector, you’ll be no stranger to the stress, senior management pressure, demanding targets, intense people management workload and sheer exhaustion that goes with a retail career. No wonder you’re thinking about leaving the sector altogether and opening your own pub. Well, lucky for you, you have exactly the skill set required to do that altogether more sociable and mentally satisfying role.

Retail management stresses

Whether it’s for a multinational supermarket brand, a food and drink retailer, a tech retailer or even a home improvement chain, working for a retail business tends to throw up many risks that can be incredibly stressful for a manager.

Any given day could confront you with everything from theft of products or fixtures-and-fittings to data breaches and digital theft; from damage to your stock to failure to properly monitor your competitors’ activity. And this multitude of daily stresses and strains might not just affect the business’s bottom-line, but also your mental health, if you’re not careful.

The interesting thing about putting yourself through all that for as long as you have is that it’s made you two things:

  1. Incredibly resilient and well-equipped to be able to deal with those pressures, even though the mere thought of doing them to the same level again is exhausting;
  2. Reasonably financially well-off enough to be able to start considering your career options and whether or not you’d like to do something else.

So, when you went home at the end of that particularly gruelling shift, where multiple people phoned in sick, a bunch of stuff got stolen and you had multiple customer complaints, and said to yourself or your other half, “you know what: I think I’d like to give it all up and just run my own pub,” you might actually have been onto something. So, you may want to pursue that thought a little further.

People skills, above all

The one thing any retailer worth their salt has in droves, which comes in very handy indeed in the hospitality sector, is the ability to put a smile on people’s faces and just make them generally feel good about themselves. That’s how you’ve always managed to get your staff to work to the highest levels of performance. And that’s how you’ve always kept customers coming back for more.

When you’re running your own pub, being a people person is at the very centre of the operation. The difference is, it’s a lot less ingratiating in general. Where, in the retail sector, you tend to have to work really hard to win people (who couldn’t care less about communicating with you, generally) over to the power of the product or to the value of your customer service. Working in a pub is really all just about being a sound person who customers can get along with and trust to do a great job of serving them great (food and) drink and who staff can get along with as a great boss who treats them fairly. You’re actually building a business around being yourself as a key figure in the local community.

Commercial savvy

Running a pub might seem like a walk in the park to someone like you, particularly if you’ve worked at Regional Manager level and overseen performance of multiple sites. What we’re saying, though, is that profitability is not an alien concept to you – not by any stretch of the imagination – and that’s very important when you’re running your own business.

You’re the kind of person who – at this point in your career – just automatically works on a cause-and-effect basis. You see good things happening, you analyse the data to find out why they’re happening. You see bad things happening, you do the exact same thing. And that’s what helps you see the types of changes you need to make (or what you need to keep doing more of) to enable your profits to just keep climbing and climbing.

Great Pub Partners are businesspeople, not just people-people. Any successful pub you walk into will be run by a landlord or landlady who’s both amazing with people and with money.

Stock control and logistics 

Two things about running a pub:

  1. Never run out of beer – your customers will just stop coming and go somewhere else if they can’t even touch lips to a glass of their favourite tipple;
  2. Never waste beer – cask ale doesn’t last forever; like all food-and-drink, it goes off eventually, so it’s important to make sure you don’t end up with loads of barrels sitting around in your cellar that can’t be used.

We don’t really need to say a lot more than that, do we? The thing is, as a retailer, you’ve probably worked on multiple channels, ordering far larger quantities of stock and dealing with far more risky margins for error. So the level of judgment you’ll need to make sure you’re buying in the right amounts for regular operations versus special event days, for instance, is something you’ve already honed to a fine art.

Same goes for dealing with logistics – the ordering process, the goods in process, the returns process. You can do this stuff with your hands closed and your eyes tied behind your back! So handling the comings and goings of glassware, beer, wine, food stock, cutlery and beer mats isn’t really going to cause you too much of a headache (though it might take a bedding-in period to get to know your average and potential turnover).

Merchandising, Marketing & PR

Even if you haven’t worked for one of the bigger retail chains and have, rather, been part of a SME or even an independent shop, there’s one thing we know you’re going to have plenty of experience and that’s promoting products.

The thing about running your own pub is that that’s a large part of what it’s all about. First of all, it’s about determining the brand of your specific pub – how you want to position yourselves to your clientele and who that clientele is. Then it’s about developing a product line that suits their needs, as well as all the stuff that’s going to get them through the door. Events hosting, guest ales, great reviews on TripAdvisor, great social media, beautifully presented products in a beautiful environment… The principle of merchandising and marketing a pub is just the same as that of merchandising and marketing a retail outlet.

If you’re a retailer asking yourself, ‘could I run my own pub?’, the answer is of course yes. It’s not going to be anything like the career wind-down you might imagine and you will have to work so, so hard to make a go of it and turn your pub into a hub of the local community. But the pay-off is a whole lot different to that of working in retail. It’s more personal; more shared between you, your team and the people who frequent your pub. There’s a warmth to it that you just won’t find standing in the warehouse out back of a supermarket at 5am while looking at a clipboard and thinking to yourself, ‘here we go again.’

And, in that sense only, it’s nothing like retail. (Thank goodness?)