10 Important Questions About Running A Pub

running a pub, owning a business,
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 01/02/2016 - 10:00

Do you have a question about running a pub but don’t know who to ask or are afraid of the answer? We don’t beat around the bush here at Greene King, if you’re interested in starting a pub business you need honest answers to help decide whether it’s the right thing for you.

Running A Pub: The Questions You Were Afraid To Ask

Bob Luke and Dick Cobb, pub partners recruitment managers at Greene King answer the ten tough questions you need to ask before you decide to run a pub.

1. Aren’t all pubs going bust?

‘There are more pubs opening than closing now,’ says Bob. ‘The ones that couldn’t survive the smoking ban have gone now.’ Today’s pubs are successful for their food, their bedrooms and their role in the community – which can be anything from sports and quiz nights to provision for hobbyists, such as bird-watchers or walkers.

2. Why would I want to run a pub in 2016?

‘If you love working with people and you want to run your own business, running a pub is the most affordable way to start,’ says Dick. If you take a lease or tenancy from a brewery like Greene King, you can run the pub your way – as a restaurant, a boutique hotel or a family-friendly destination – but you don’t need a huge investment and you’ll get lots of support.

3. Do I have the right qualifications for running a pub?

‘Energy, a passion for what you do and being good with people are more important than formal qualifications,’ says Bob. You need a lot of skills to run a pub well, but Greene King offer training schemes and back-up for areas such as legal and tax, so your personality is more important than your skills.

4. If I run a pub with my partner, will our relationship survive?

‘Working full-time with someone is very different from just seeing them at evenings and weekends,’ says Dick. ‘If there’s a weakness in your relationship, then being together all day will bring tensions to the surface. But if you work well together, then it can strengthen bonds too. Often a husband-and-wife team will take different days off, for example, so there are opportunities to get away from each other for short periods.’

5. What about my work/life balance? Will I be working all hours?

‘Running a pub is hard work,’ says Bob. ‘There’s no doubt about that.’

‘But how hard are you working now?’ questions Dick. ‘If you’re leaving the house at 7am to commute, then getting back at 7pm, plus working late or at weekends, then you probably don’t have as much free time as you think you have. Most pubs have living accommodation, so that helps enormously with issues like household bills and commuting.’

6. We have a family. Can we bring our children up in a pub?

‘I know that I saw more of my daughter growing up than most of friends saw of their children because I was at home when she got back from school,’ says Dick. ‘So a pub can be a good place to bring up a family, especially if it means you can live somewhere you couldn’t otherwise live (in a rural location or near good schools).

‘But there can be problems,’ warns Bob. ‘If your children are very young when you start running a pub, it’ll be fine because they’ll grow up being used to adult attention and being surrounded by crisps and soft drinks. But if they’re eight or nine, it may be a bit like letting them loose in a sweet shop… you know your children, so consider it carefully.’

7. How much will it cost me to start up?

‘It varies from pub to pub,’ says Bob. ‘If you buy a pub freehold you’d be looking at an investment of half a million or more. If you buy a lease or tenancy from Greene King, you probably won’t need much more than a tenth of that. We’re completely open about the upfront costs, and what you will and won’t get back. Some of our competitors just put the cost of the lease out there. You’ve got to add fixtures & fittings, legal costs, the deposit, the cost of stock and the amount of base working capital you’ll need.

8. How much money could I make?

‘It varies from pub to pub,’ says Dick. ‘We’ll give you a ‘shadow’ Profit and Loss account, to give you an idea of how much you can make at each pub. You can also make more if you let rooms, do more food or take on other pubs. You can aim to run your own chain under the Greene King banner – it’ll still be your business. But don’t just think about the profit you can see – if accommodation is included you won’t need a mortgage or to pay rent, and many household bills may be included in the pub bills, too. And there are no commuting costs.’

‘It’s a quick return business,’ adds Bob. ‘You buy a barrel of beer and sell it the following week, and you only pay for the beer you sell. That makes it a good business for cash flow.’

9. Is running a pub a good ‘retirement’ job?

If you’re retiring from a first career relatively early – in your early 50s, for example, then running a pub can be a great retirement job. You need to have plenty of energy, but you’ll be part of a community. If you love working with people, your previous skills will be very useful. Greene King have training programmes to top up those skills. It can also be financially rewarding, if you have a home you can let out while you live in the pub. It can also be a way of finding out if you’re ready to move to a different part of Britain or trying out the dream of living in the country or by the sea.

10. How do I choose the right pub to run?

Come to Greene King and talk to Dick and Bob. They’ll be straight with you and will help you decide whether it’s the right lifestyle for you. Talk to other breweries and to all the publicans you can find. Visit your favourite pubs and see what they do well, what’s missing and what you could do better. If you’ve got a partner or a family, talk to them about whether you’re all ready for a complete life change and a new adventure. 

Have you got any other questions? If you’re wondering if the pub business is for you, you need to ask a lot of questions. Which is handy because that is what Dick and Bob, and the rest of our recruitment team are here for.