Man and woman in pub cellar check barrel lines

What skills and experience do you need to run a pub?

To run a successful pub as a self-employed trader, you’ll need lots of relevant knowledge, experience and training. But you don’t necessarily have to have gained that experience in a pub. People from all walks of life become publicans and make a good living doing so.

The thing is, pub companies like Marston’s offer comprehensive training and support to ensure that anyone who starts their own pub business has the skills needed to make it a success. Even if they’re from a completely different professional background.

What qualifications do you need to be a pub landlord or landlady?

How do you run your own pub if you don’t have qualifications? Well, there aren’t any specific qualifications you actually need to run a pub.

Of course, you might have studied something like Business Studies, Hospitality or Leisure & Tourism at school, college of university. Or maybe you’ll have done an apprenticeship in a different kind of food and drink business or hotel chain. However, many successful pub partners leave the education system without any qualifications at all and do all their studying at the university of life.

Two women behind a barWhat kind of training do I need to become a publican?

If you’re thinking about running a pub, you’ve probably already had a good deal of training in other jobs in your life, which will come in really useful in making your new pub business a success. Things like basic IT training and communications skills training, for instance.

When you partner with a pub company, though, you’ll get lots of training on top of that. Expect to learn everything from how to pull the perfect pint to how to become a better networker in your local area. It’s in the pub company’s best interests to make sure the people who take on their pubs are fully skilled, so they’ll help you learn to become a great leader, entrepreneur and operations manager.

What kind of experience do pub landlords have?

The backgrounds from which pub landlords and landladies come are hugely varied. You’ll find everyone from retired footballers and boxers to successful former retailers, hotel managers and entertainment promoters running Marston’s pubs, for instance.

There are people who’ve worked in offices and wanted to get out from behind the desk and get behind the bar. There are former police officers, firefighters and armed forces professionals. And yes, of course, many publicans have spent years working in other people’s pubs and finally thought to themselves, ‘I want to run a pub of my own.’

One thing all of them have in common is that they are driven to work hard, on their own terms, to deliver an essential hub of activity for the local community.

What skills do you need to run a pub?

There are some core skills you’ll need to either already have or be passionate about developing:

  • Amazing people skills – Pub landlords and landladies are sociable people who are great at putting smiles on other people’s faces. They’re also respected because they’re not afraid to say, ‘no,’ to customers who don’t want to hear it.
  • Great financial knowledge – Effective financial planning and budgeting are core skills of a successful publican. It’s about making more money than you spend, so balancing the books is something every self-employed pub partner learns to do very early on into their tenancy.
  • Bar and cellar skills –Man stock-checking in a bar/pub The most obvious skills in running a pub are knowing which drinks are which and how they should be served. From pints of beer to cocktails! But there’s something even more important that comes before that – how they should be stored and hooked up to the taps. Cellar skills are one of the first things you’ll learn as a publican.
  • Food hygiene and preparation skills – If you don’t already have a food hygiene certificate when you start out running a pub that serves food, your pub company should offer training to get it. They’ll probably also offer you kitchen skills training so that you can prepare delicious meals and be compliant with industry standards.
  • Brilliant marketing skills – The reason so many people from the live entertainment industry end up running pubs is because they’ve had experience of promoting events. The thing about running a pub, though, is that every day you’re open is an event to your customers. So it’s all about how you position your pub to your various markets – locals, tourists, couples, groups, parties and so on. What ingenious ideas do you have for raising awareness of your dream pub?
  • HR/people management skills – Whether you’ve been a manager before or not, when you take on a pub, you’re going to become one. So you’re going to need to learn all about HR rules, regulations and practices, as well as how to motivate, reward and (if necessary) discipline your team. Being a great people manager isn’t just about being friendly and sociable. It’s also about garnering respect and ensuring you get the best from your team.
  • Fantastic organisational skills – You might think that pub landlords and landladies throw away their alarm clock the day they say goodbye to being someone else’s employee and open their own pub. But, actually, they’re fantastically organised people who put significant effort into planning and forecasting for the months ahead, as well as organising their day-to-day activities effectively. A tightly run pub is a successful pub, so learning to be organised is one of the most important skills a pub partner can develop.

Looking for something else to read? Check out our article on the different types of pubs self-employed people choose to run.