Landloard behind a bar

Should I run my own pub?

Thinking about becoming a self-employed pub landlord or landlady but wondering, “is running a pub right for me?” You might be asking yourself if you’ll make money running a pub or how you’d even go about running a pub if you’ve never done it before. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the right decision for you and your future.

Have you ever worked in a pub?

If you have, you’ll already know plenty about day-to-day pub management. From customer service and pouring the perfect pint to changing a barrel and stock-taking, anyone who’s worked behind a bar will have a great idea of what being in charge of your own pub looks like, operationally at least.

Of course, you don’t need experience of working in a pub to run one of your own. You might have a business management background gained elsewhere, such as in retail. Or maybe you’ve been doing something else with your life and are simply determined, incredibly hardworking and confident that you’ve got the passion and dedication to make a go of it.

Do you have to be a people person to run a pub?

Being a publican means dealing with the public. (The job title sort of gives it away.) So, you definitely need great people skills to be a successful pub landlord/landlady! Think about the kinds of relationships you have at work and with your friends. Are you a leader or a follower? Do you bring people together or do you tend to set the cat among the pigeons? Are you the life and soul of the party or do you sit quietly in the corner?

From the moment you open the bar with a big smile on your face right through to the moment you’re serving people their last orders, your people skills will be put to the test. That’s why people who’ve had some kind of customer or client service experience do so well running pubs.

Waitress taking order from a table of customers in a pubAre you a bit of an entrepreneur?

Are you a creative ideas person? Do you have amazing social media skills? Are you the kind of person who’s able to think of ingenious ways to convince people to get together and spend money? If so, running your own pub might be the perfect business opportunity for you. Pub landlords and landladies are people who think beyond just selling food and drink. They’re constantly thinking about new ways to get people to come in and socialise.

Some publicans will rent out a room to local music promoters and bands. Some will host private parties, birthdays, weddings and wakes. Publicans think outside the pub! So you’ll find the best Pub Partners hosting car boot sales and running charity games events in the car park. There’ll be quiz nights, retro-gaming nights, mother-and-baby mornings and you-name-it taking place in the most successful pubs. What money-making ideas would you conjure up if you ran a pub?

Are you an independent person or do you rely on others?

The thing about running a pub is: there’s a lot of responsibility. So you need to be someone who’s confident about handling your own affairs. After all, there’ll be no manager standing around telling you what to do and when to do it. In fact, the vast majority of people who run pubs get into it because they love the idea of being their own boss and no longer having to answer to someone else. Independence is seen as a big plus.

That said, even people who do like the idea of some support can run their own pubs. Because most breweries and pub companies offer some level of support to people who take on one of their pubs. Just how much support tends to depend on what type of agreement is made between the company and the individual and how much the landlady/landlord decides to invest up-front.

If you like the idea of autonomy, but love the idea of mentorship, ongoing moral support where you need it and help with your marketing, running a brewery or pub company pub offers all that and more.

Plate of foodAre you a food and drink connoisseur?

You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to run a pub. But the more you’re able to speak with knowledge and passion about beer, wine, spirits, pub grub and… well… even crisps(!) the more likely you are to get others excited about it. So it’s important to have passion for the stuff you sell.

Guests who come into your pub might want to know what kind of ale goes well with a particular dish on your menu (if, indeed you decide to serve food in your establishment). Or if a particular type of food goes better with red or white wine.

The most passionate pub landlords and landladies swot up on their stock so they’re able to speak with authority about it. Fortunately, the best pub companies offer product training to their Pub Partners, so there should be plenty of advice on tap, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Can you be around food and drink without partaking?

You might think it’s a funny question, but running a pub is a business. So you don’t want to eat and drink away your profits. By the same token, it’s important to be compos mentis while you’re working, so drinking alcohol on the job is probably not the best idea in the world.

The most successful pub landladies and landlords wait until their shift is over to reward themselves with a pint of their favourite ale or a glass of their favourite tipple. You might be surprised to know that some publicans don’t really drink much alcohol – they simply do it because they love being around people and being their own boss.

Can you say no to your friends?

When you become a publican, you’ll suddenly become the most popular person in your social group. If you’re a bit of a pushover, you might find your friends coming in expecting free food and drinks. Whether you give it to them is, of course, at your discretion. But bear in mind that your friends and family will be your first customers so start as you mean to go on.

There might be times when you feel like doing a good deed for members of the community and there’s no better way of making your pub popular than by showing you have a heart. But running a pub is a business that depends on your entrepreneurial skills. Learning how to say no is an important lesson and one you should already have learned if you’re thinking of running a pub.

Two people sat having a meetingHave you got some money to invest?

Starting out in a new pub won’t simply be a case of ordering some stock, opening the doors and calling out, ‘who’s next?’ to a throng of thirsty regulars. It might take a few weeks or, even, months to get off the ground and start making real money. So you won’t just need some money to put in up-front, but probably a bit set to one side to help you get by while you build the business.

It’s probably sensible to have at least £10k available so that you can pay some into the business when you take on the pub and keep some to one side to help you with living expenses. Which leads to our final question…

Do you like the idea of cutting down your living costs dramatically?

Most people who run their own pub (the main exception being in city centre pubs, generally) tend to live upstairs from the bar. And, even though they’re self-employed, if they do it for a pub chain, it’s very likely that they do it rent-free and without bills to pay. Maybe they’ll have support in terms of free repairs to the building and its fixtures and fittings, too.

Running a pub might be an investment that requires lots of time, energy, cash up-front and dedication, but it certainly pays back in terms of reduced living costs. Not to mention independence, social life, security and profit, if done well. So, returning to the opening question… ask yourself again: should you run a pub? Only you can answer that.

Looking for something else to read? Check out our recent article and find out, “What is the best kind of pub to run.”