Make Your Dream of Running a Pub Come True

Opening your own pub, with your own vision on how to market it, is an exciting dream. You’ll be at the heart of the community, offering a valued service and products to your guests. And it’s the kind of dream more and more people are making come true—according to Statista, there are now 1.1 million more self-employed people in Britain than there were at the beginning of the millennium. Let’s explore how to make running your own pub a reality.


Changing career to become a publican
Making sure you’re cut out to run a pub
Knowing what running a pub is really like
Understanding how your life will change
Finding the ideal pub for your ambition

Changing career to become a publican

Whilst many publicans started out their careers working behind the bar, lots of people who successfully run pubs do so without any experience in the hospitality sector at all.

These career changers are able to bring many transferrable skills from their previous roles. In general, they tend to be great communicators, with strong commercial awareness and excellent organisational skills. They’re also great leaders who can bring staff and guests together to deliver relentlessly outstanding service.

It is, of course, important to do a proper compare-and-contrast between what you’re doing now for a living and what running a pub will look like in comparison. Because, whilst it might seem much more fulfilling on paper, the reality is that it’ll still be really hard work—perhaps even harder.

Nevertheless, make sure you consider all the rewards that changing your career could bring. No more commuting, because you’ll probably live in on-site accommodation. Much more freedom than you ever experienced as someone else’s employee—so the chance to do things how you want them to be done. Plus, the chance to learn new skills—from pouring pints to events management—and keep a significant share of the profits.

Startups. reports that self-employed people in the UK are “happier and more motivated” than full-time employees, according to a 2021 survey by Personal Group.

Making sure you’re cut out to run a pub

Before you go ahead and start speaking to a pub company about taking on one of its pubs, it’s essential to make sure that running a pub is a realistic goal for you. There are lots of different factors you’ll need to consider up-front, namely:

  • Are you creative?
    You’ll need to be a real ideas person to run a successful pub. From menu planning and events coordination to social media marketing and developing staff incentives, being a successful publican means constantly thinking up great creative solutions.
  • Are you ready to invest?
    Opening your own pub demands that you have some savings behind you and are excited to invest and grow them. With a Marston’s Pillar Partnership, for instance, you’ll need £5,000 minimum investment to undertake the agreement. We’d also recommend anyone starting a new pub has some additional start-up money set aside so you can really make the most of your personal vision for the pub. Not to mention having a contingency fund to help you comfortably adjust to your new self-employed career while you roll out your business plan.
  • Are your family and friends onboard?
    Having support from those around you when you start your new business is really important. Especially from a spouse or partner because they may be living and working in the pub with you. Here at Marston’s, for example, we have lots of great pubs that are family operations—it goes down really well with the community and makes for a more successful business.
  • Are you a hard worker?
    Running a pub isn’t for people who are hoping to start to take things easier. Far from it. Just look at the self-employed publicans who take on Marston’s Pillar Partnerships, for example. They passionately put in the hours—starting work before the doors open and finishing after midnight six days out of seven. Plus, they take on all manner of different tasks they might never have done before—the learning curve can be as steep as it is exciting.

Knowing what running a pub is really like

The reality of running a pub can be amazing. It can give you a great income, a sense of independence like you’ve never experienced and help you to feel that you’re doing something meaningful with your life. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider, up-front, the scope of the challenge you’re taking on.

Some people who dream of running a pub think, for instance, that living on-site and getting rid of the daily commute will mean having more time to themselves. That’s not the case, though. Great publicans are up early planning staff rotas, setting up the guest areas, helping the chef with prep and phoning suppliers.

Another common misunderstanding is that you can just open when you feel like it. The thing is, there are costs associated with running a pub, so you need to stay open to cover them—let alone your own income. Pub agreements like the Marston’s Pillar Partnership, for instance, come with rent free accommodation and a proportion of the utilities are covered. That’s in exchange for you opening for at least a set number of hours each week and working hard to make your pub profitable.

One thing people dreaming of running a pub tend to think about that’s actually true is just how central they’ll be to the local community. Yes, by running a pub, you will be a community ambassador and local people will get to know you by name and become your friends. But there’ll be complaints to deal with from time to time. There’ll be disruptive customers to learn how to handle effectively. And you’ll spend most evenings kindly asking people to finish their drinks so your staff can all get home to bed.

It’s a reality that hardworking, creative, passionate and tireless publicans take in their stride, of course. And, if that’s you, it all points toward a happy life of self-employment and self-sufficiency.

Understanding how your life will change

The impact that running your own pub will have on your life—at least if you’ve never done it before—will be massive. You’ll be happy to know that should mostly be in a good way, of course. However, it’s good to explore just to what extent it’s likely to change your life.

  • Going self-employed is a big change
    Whether or not you’ve worked in hospitality before, making the leap to self-employment is a massive change. Whilst you’ll never have to worry about things like being micromanaged again, you will have to take responsibility for the success of your business—from motivating yourself to doing your own taxes. For the right people, it can be truly liberating
  • Moving—especially downsizing—is a big change
    Compare My Move says that uprooting your whole life is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. If you’re downsizing into a pub flat from a house, it can be particularly challenging. You might even have to find new schools for your children, if you have them. The benefit is, of course, that—at least with a Marston’s Pillar Partnership—you’ll be moving into on-site accommodation with fewer bills to pay. Which probably takes a good deal of the edge off of that stress.
  • Learning how to motivate yourself is a big change
    Pub landlords and landladies are amazing people. They don’t need anyone to tell them to get up, pull their socks up and do their best. It’s just something that they know how to do, because they’ve learned how essential it is to running a successful pub. Taking on a pub literally means being your own boss—checking yourself all the time, motivating yourself and telling yourself you “could do better” when things go wrong.
  • Becoming the boss is a big change
    You’ll have no-doubt had bosses you thought were amazing and others you thought weren’t so good in your time. When you take on a pub, you’re going to be the boss and you’ll be at pains to make sure you’re the right kind. It’s not as straightforward as being everyone’s best friend. Sometimes, the front-of-house staff will need a bit of motivating to deliver better guest service. Sometimes the chef will need a bit of encouragement to deliver better presentation. Learning how to become a boss that people respect, like and admire is a real skill.

Finding the ideal pub for your ambition

The other thing you’ll need to consider before turning your self-employed pub dream into a reality is: what kind of pub do you want to run? You’ve probably got something in mind already. It’s good to know exactly what’s out there, however, because the closer it matches your vision, the more successful you’re likely to make it.

Think about whether it’ll be a wet-led or dry-led pub. Wet led pubs are those that are centred on drinks sales, whereas dry-led pubs are centred on food sales. If you’re considering a Marston’s Pillar Partnership, for example, that’s particularly well-suited to dry-led pubs as it allows you to develop your own menu with your own choice of ingredients.

Also, think about what kind of pub you want to run. Here at Marston’s, for instance, our pub estate includes Community Locals, Destination Dining pubs, High Street & Town Centre pubs and Pubs with Rooms. Which of those appeals to your personality and ambition? It’s important to take on the right kind of pub if you want to be happy and successful running it.

It’s probably not a great idea, for instance, to take on a sports pub if you’re not a sports fan. Let’s say you’re passionate about food or live music, instead—it might be wiser to take on a pub with a history of success in one of those areas.

Finally, consider what local people would like to get out of your pub. Are they looking for the kind of pub you’re hoping to offer? How will you shape your strategy to meet their needs? And, if your vision doesn’t cater to what they’re looking for, should you perhaps be looking in a different part of the region or country altogether and relocating?

Click here to find out more about running your own Marston’s pub with a Pillar Partnership.