What Kind of Person does it Take to Run a Pub?

Running a pub can be a hugely rewarding way of life that offers many fantastic benefits, such as great potential earnings, home working and the chance to be your own boss. However, it takes a special kind of person to become a self-employed publican—unbroken focus, dedication and financial commitment are just the tip of the iceberg.

At Marston’s, we’re proud to have welcomed some amazing new pub partners into our pubs in recent times, as a result of launching our Pillar Partnership. People who might not have considered running a pub of their own if it hadn’t been for the level of freedom coupled with relatively low financial investment that this new type of agreement enabled. All of those people share a number of characteristics that we believe are the hallmarks of outstanding self-employed publicans.

So, what makes up that special combination of personality traits particular to the entrepreneurial pub partner? Let’s take a look.


The ability to think creatively
Great organisational skills
A high degree of self-sufficiency
Passion for the pub life
A tireless hard work ethic

The ability to think creatively

Innovation, ingenuity and imagination are words widely associated with artists, writers, engineers and computer programmers. We would argue that they’re words that should be associated with self-employed publicans too! Why is creativity such a big part of running a pub? Well, just think about the sheer variety of activities that independent pub partners do:

    • They plan their own menus—whether they’re running a wet-led or dry-led pub, they love to get creative with their product offerings and offer amazing variety and quality.
    • They run their own events—from craft fairs and jumble sales to DJ nights, open mic hip-hop nights and local artist exhibitions, a great publican will conjure up all kinds of ways of getting people through the doors of their pub.
    • They hire people with unique skill sets—rather than recruiting in their own image, a great publican will think outside the box and hire team members who fill the gaps in their own skill sets. From amazing chefs to social media whizz kids at front-of-house, creative recruiting can make all the difference to the success of a pub.


  • They go above and beyond for customers—it’s not just about smiling nicely and giving customers what they ask for. The best publicans will pick up on the little details of their guests’ lives and cater to them in ways those guests never imagined—whether it’s running a marathon to raise money for a local charity or running a food bank on-site during times of difficulty.

The everyday inventiveness that we see in our pub partners is exciting to witness. It also means that the pub landscape has become more competitive than ever, so great publicans need to have that level of creativity to be able to cut it.

Great organisational skills

Read the job description of any manager-level role and you’ll see a demand for organisational ability. In the world of self-employed pub management though, it couldn’t be more appropriate. A good publican keeps their pub running like clockwork because they are so vigilant about organising their workload.

Whether it’s stock maintenance—auditing and quality-checking their beer and food, improving the ordering and invoicing procedure and so on—or maintaining their events calendar to keep customers flooding in, a great pub landlord or landlady will always keep their house in order.

They’ll have team rotas planned in advance and know exactly who to call if someone phones in sick. They’ll stay well on top of payroll so that they build trust within their team and keep employees happy. Plus, they’ll maintain their accounts regularly and ensure they’re always up to date with their filing duties and pay their taxes on time.

A high degree of self-sufficiency

Self-employed publicans, as we’ve found in our own partnerships agreements, tend to be incredibly self-sufficient. In fact, they often tell us that it was the autonomy of running their own pub that appealed to them in the first place. But why, exactly, is it so important to be self-sufficient as a publican?

Well, for starters, there’ll be no one to tell you what to do. Running a pub means being your own boss—you only have yourself to answer to. That means you have to be self-motivated enough to get on with all the different jobs that need to be done each day without anyone telling you. You’ll also need a sense of determination , so that you can be an effective decision maker. Plus, you should have a strong degree of self-reliance—i.e., knowing that the success of your business rests on your shoulders—to give you a sense of accountability.

After all, the money you earn from running a pub can vary and will depend on which agreement you sign up to. Our most successful Publicans are those that are comfortable with the self-sufficient nature of running their own pub business.

Passion for the pub life

To run a successful pub, you have to love pub culture. The clink of the glasses, the thrum of activity on a busy shift, the ringing of the last orders bell… Having a sense of excitement about all the different aspects of pub life will make you a more passionate publican—and that will make you a more effective one.

You have to care about the quality of your products—not just what your beer tastes like, for example, but how carefully it’s stored and poured. If you’re running a dry-led pub, you have to love the idea of delighting customers with tantalising menus too. In fact, one of the reasons we started our Pillar Partnerships is because so many would-be publicans told us they wanted the freedom to develop their own menus .

It’s also really important to be a people person, because you’ll be operating at the heart of the community. Great publicans don’t deliver robotic customer service from a script—they deliver real heart—and that comes from genuinely caring about the experiences of the people they serve in their pubs.

A tireless hard work ethic

It takes an unfailing amount of dedication to keep a good pub running profitably. In fact, we would argue that publicans are among the hardest workers in hospitality. To people who aren’t cut out for pub life, that sounds daunting. To those who are though, it’s an exciting challenge.

To a great publican, the idea of getting up early and staying up late to run the pub doesn’t faze them at all. It’s a lifestyle choice—staying busy from morning set-up to night-time clean-up—and the relentless pace is all part of the attraction. Same goes for the fact that they stay open seven days a week. Running a pub blurs the publican’s home life and work life in a way that makes opening the doors and inviting the public in just a part of who they are and what they do.

It’s not just the publican’s personality that drives them to work hard though. There are also significant commercial demands that are only increasing in the 21st Century. People’s social activities have diversified and they demand higher standards from hospitality providers than ever before. That means competition for their business is stiffer than ever and today’s publicans have to deliver next-level products, atmosphere and customer service to attract sustained, repeat business.

As we say though, for the successful publican, the opportunity to work hard is its own reward. It’s a bit like being house-proud, only in this case, it’s a public house. Great publicans want to show their guests what a fantastic establishment they run and get a genuine sense of satisfaction from knowing that they’re delivering a service that people value.

Think of it this way—the word “hospitality” is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as such: “the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors”. So, whilst it’s very much a demanding career choice, it’s nothing if not a feelgood one.

Looking for something else to read? Take a look at our article on how to Make Your Dream of Running a Pub Come True.