What is the best kind of pub to run?
You’re ready to make your dream of running a pub come true. Fantastic! Running your own pub is a brilliant way to go self-employed, offering you the potential to make really good money. But you haven’t decided what kind of pub is best to run yet. So, before you take the leap and apply to become a landlord or landlady, it’s important to think about what kinds of pubs are available in the UK and which type of pub would best suit what you’re looking for.
Independently-owned pubs are back on the rise in Britain, because some entrepreneurial people love the idea of being able to own the building, the business and everything that comes with it. Complete freedom. It takes a bold spirit who’s not afraid to put everything on the line – from reputation to finances – but those who do it brilliantly are the ones who get on top of all the issues from day one. Because, of course, owning your own business does come with plenty of issues.
Yes, owning a pub means dealing with your own HR activities and taking care of all your own costs. No one to help offset the cost of your drinks stock or your heating and lighting. No expert training or support. And you’ll have to do all your own research into which types of drinks to stock (which your regulars may love or hate) and negotiating with the brewery. For some, it’s the dream come true, but for a lot of people it can be just far too daunting, which is why the majority of people wanting to run their own pubs choose an alternative option nowadays.
Brewery and pubco pubs
The rise of brewery owned and pubco pubs has been phenomenal over the last few decades. The reason entrepreneurs looking to run their own pubs tend to choose this option is that it comes with a much lower risk (though, of course, you will have to make a contractual commitment for a given period). And, yet, it offers much of the same sense of freedom and reward, e.g. being your own boss, hiring your own team, running your own hours and, in some cases, choosing your own stock.
The benefit of running a brewery or pubco owned pub is that, alongside much of the same freedom and much less of the risk, you also enjoy a lot of the same type of support that you could if you were managing someone else’s pub. And the keyword here is support. You’re still your own boss; you simply also have access to brewery and pubco teams who know the pub business like the backs of their hands, so can give you all the advice you need to make your new pub business a success.
Will your pub do food and drink? Or just drinks? Running a pub with a restaurant is potentially much more lucrative as you’ll have a whole extra income stream. However, you may need to take on extra staff to run what’s known as a dry-led pub – a cook or chef, plus at least one person to deliver table service. Of course, you could try to do it all yourself, but you might need two pair of hands if you’re also trying to pull pints at the same time. And, if your pub is going to be primarily about its food offering, that food needs to be good, so you can’t afford to take any half-measures!
Dry-led pubs work really well in touristic areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty, because they get plenty of footfall from people passing by on days out. They also work well in areas where there are lots of people working, such as amidst office complexes. If you love cooking and the idea of the smell of home cooked food filling your pub, a dry-led pub might be the option for you.
Types of dry-led pubs
Within the category of dry-led pubs, you’ll find a few different options to consider:
Carveries offer traditional roast dinners, generally of beef, turkey and gammon with all the trimmings. Cooked in large batches so that guests can help themselves, carvery meals are a huge draw, particularly on Sundays, for families and large groups, so can make you lots of money as a carvery landlord. Drinks are sold separately, too, so you’ll make extra money there! Recommending a good pint to go with a particular type of meat could really endear you to your customers, too, so swot up on your ales.
Rotisserie pub restaurants
Running a rotisserie pub is a great way of making money by having a food offering with relatively minimal effort. While you’re serving customers behind the bar, your chickens will be on the spit, slow roasting to perfection in the rotisserie oven. Guests can choose a sauce and a couple of sides, from a small but varied menu. Meanwhile, you can get on with the job of chatting to the public as you serve them drinks at the bar.
Pubs with food
Running a pub with food is all about giving your customers an offering of traditional pub fare and more modern dishes to delight their imagination. This is a hands-on type of business, where you’ll be taking all kinds of different orders for different sizes of groups. And you’ll also have customers just coming in for a drink, giving you the chance to stay busy outside of mealtimes and earn plenty of money on wet products alone.
Two for One pubs
Tenanting a Two for One pub gives you the chance to offer a great, varied menu to your customers, but with the added attraction of two main dishes or specials board dishes being available for the price of one, all day every day. If you’re of the mindset – like many Marston’s pub partners – that customers love nothing more than great value, a Two for One pub might be a great option for a burgeoning publican.
A wet-led pub (one whose main offering is drinks, though you might also offer bar snacks and light bites) is a much more straightforward option, because you don’t have to think about cooking and serving food. That’s why so many retailers choose to run wet-led pubs – because the focus is so strongly on sales and customer service.
Running a wet-led pub means catering to people out to socialise with their friends, but also those who are there specifically for the types of drinks on offer. So, the landlord or landlady of a wet-led pub should brush up on their craft ale and specialist drinks knowledge so they can develop a reputation for great drinks knowledge
Town centre pubs
If you love the hustle-and-bustle and the vibrancy of town centre or city life, a town centre pub could be a great type of pub to run for you.
There are all kinds of options available. You might choose to run a younger ‘party’ venue and make your pub the heart of the action for all the exciting nightlife in your chosen location. Or you could run a traditional pub where busy shoppers and office workers stop in for a lunchtime or an after-work pint or a glass of wine.
Whichever kind of town centre pub you decide to run, having your name above the door on an establishment like this gives you an amazing opportunity to maximise profits in a part of the world that’s rarely without passing trade.
If you love the idea of running a tenanted pub in a rural or semi-rural location, with a mix of locals, hikers and tourists as your guests, a country pub might be just the type you’re after. Contrary to the image it naturally conjures up, you can find plenty of modern pubs in rural locations. But if you really want to cater to your guests’ sense of what a classic country pub is, it’s all about decorating it with timeless, bucolic charm.
Imagine running your own pub with a lovely beer garden overlooking rolling hills and fields. Living upstairs in the pub and walking down each morning into a picturesque little bar with wooden beams and brass ornaments and a big open fire – a real destination pub. It’s quite the attractive proposition, which is why so many people choose country pubs for a change of career, such as ex-footballers and people from high-flying executive careers.
Being at the heart of the community is what running a local pub is all about. When you choose to be the landlord or landlady of the local watering hole for people in the area, you put yourself at the centre of their lives. So it’s all about making sure you develop a business that feels warm, inviting, relaxing and full of good cheer and community spirit.
The key to running a local pub is about community engagement. Whether it’s running events that involve the locals, doing things for charities dear to your regulars’ hearts or simply giving them a great place to stop in for a couple of jars and the occasional knees-up with their pals.
What kind of pub tenancy agreement?
Before we tell you what the different types of tenancies for people wanting to run a pub are, first of all let’s assume that some people reading this might still be asking, “What is a pub tenancy agreement?” and explain a bit about that first.
A pub tenancy agreement is when you rent a pub from a brewery of pubco for a given period of time. It means that you don’t have the responsibility of outright buying and owning the building, so there’s much less risk involved than buying an independent pub.
There are different types available, giving you different ways of being your own boss. Some of them require lower up-front investments from the tenant, giving pub landlords a much higher level of support from the pub company. Some of them require higher initial investments but come with much more freedom to run the pub in your own way. It all really depends on how you value autonomy and support as to which type you choose.
Here are Marston’s there are three types available:
- Retail agreement – maximum support from the business
- Foundation agreement – freedom to choose your own food and keep every penny of food sales
- Tenancy agreement – maximum freedom to run the business your own, entrepreneurial way
You can read all about the different Marston’s pub tenancy agreements in full, here.
Looking for something else to read? Check out our feature on why former retailers make such great publicans.