The Dream vs. Reality—What Running a Pub Really Involves

The dream of saying farewell to your old job and running your own pub is a popular one and it’s easy to see why. Being your own boss, at the heart of the local community, and making a living through other people’s social lives are hugely appealing concepts. But how does the reality compare to the dream? Let’s take a look.

Contents

Can you start work when you like?
Will you be able to choose your own trading hours?
Is running a pub hard work?
Are you going to be happier?

Can you start work when you like?

When you run a pub, you’ll likely live on the pub premises and might be lucky enough to do so rent-free and with most of your utility bills paid for—like most Marston’s Pillar Partners, for example. So, there’ll be no more commuting to work, which probably means you can stay in bed a bit later. Right?

Sadly not.

Not having to commute anymore is an amazing benefit. The Economist reports that people who work from home are happier and more productive. Plus, think of what you’ll save in fuel. But great publicans get up early, just like any other hardworking professional. Setting up for the day often starts long before opening time, especially if you’re running a kitchen with fresh food to prep. Plus, you’ll have stock to order, staff rotas to prepare and events to plan.

The average publican’s day is a long one, so if you want taking on a pub to be a realistic goal, you’ll need to be both a night owl and an early bird!

Will you be able to choose your own trading hours?

The idea that you can open your pub whenever you like and work when it suits you is nice in theory. But is it one that’s grounded in reality?

Again, no it’s not. Running a pub is about offering a consistent guest experience so you have to be open regularly. That’s why most pub companies will demand its publicans stay open for a minimum set of hours. Marston’s Pillar Partners, for instance, are encouraged to be open for business between 11am and 12am Monday to Saturday and 12pm to 11pm on Sundays. Why? Because decades of experience tell us that this is what will help you to maximise your footfall.

Is running a pub hard work?

People dreaming of running a pub tend to think of the good times they’ll have with their customers and how nice that will be. You might go so far as to think it won’t even feel like work, because it’ll simply be about serving up good beer, good food and good times.

Think again, though. Whilst there’s no doubting the social status of the local pub landlord (a 2019 Guardian editorial, for instance, positions pubs at being at the very heart of their communities, which gives publicans an important role in their local area), there’s much more to it than just being a local legend.

You’ll need to be a multi-skilled multi-tasker to be a good publican. There’ll be stragglers to kindly ask to leave at closing time. You’ll have wages to organise and staff sickness to deal with. There’ll be days where it’s so busy you run out of beer and days where it’s so quiet you have to let staff members off early. For every nine rave reviews your food gets, there’ll always be one complaint about it being too hot, too cold or not up to guest standards.

In short, it’s a huge amount of work and it takes a passionate, creative, dedicated and resilient person to be able to do it well.

Are you going to be happier?

Whether you’re a career changer or someone who’s worked in hospitality all their life, there’s a sense that by taking on your own pub, you’ll be happier than you were when you were working for someone else. After all, being a community champion, creating memorable experiences and offering a place of sanctuary for local people sounds like it would give publicans a real sense of job satisfaction.

Does the entrepreneurial life really give people that sense of contentment they’re looking for, though? Well, Forbes reports that, “entrepreneurs typically experience higher-highs and lower-lows” than in their former jobs, but that, as your experience as an entrepreneur develops, “you will experience more of the highs that come with creativity, innovation, networking and success without so many of the low points.”

So, the good news is that, yes… if you pick the right pub and make it a pub to be proud of, being a self-employed publican can change your life for the better.

Looking for something else to read? See our article that tells you how to Make your dream of running a pub come true.

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