7 Ideas For Running A Successful Community Pub

Community pub, pub to let, pub tenancy
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 02/07/2018 - 10:00

Pubs have always been at the heart of every community, whether in a village, town or city. In many communities the local pub is the focal point for a whole range of different activities. Forget stories of pubs closing through lack of interest – some pub operators have turned this trend on its head and are building really fantastic businesses by focusing on the local community.

Here are our top 7 ideas for running a successful community pub:

1. Build relationships with other pubs and local businesses

Instead of trying to compete with other businesses in your neighbourhood, why not work in partnership?  Organise events together that promote your businesses such as pub crawls between different local pubs, possibility offering a discount for participants.

In Norwich, many operators have joined forces to promote a festival called ‘City of Ale’.  For one week in May, there are ale trails linking pubs in different areas, plus talks and special events.  All the participating pubs offer guests beers and in many cases entertainment too.  As well as locals, thousands of people now come from all over the country to explore the City of Ale. The result is that participating pubs get a lot of publicity, attracting customers from a much wider community, which is all good for business!

2. Internet cafes and coworking spaces

Self employment and remote working is big business. There are thousands of people in every community working from home.  They like to meet up and network. Or simply have somewhere to come for a change of scenery, where they can work in peace for a couple of hours and perhaps have some lunch. Offering free Wi-Fi will certainly bring in the laptop crowd! You may find yourself hosting the next top author or business leader – JK Rowling famously wrote most of her best selling first Harry Potter novel sitting at an empty table in an Edinburgh café!

Make sure you’ve got a barista coffee machine so you provide an alternative to the high street coffee shops where many remote workers gravitate towards. Offering a room where business networking groups can meet for a couple of hours is also a great idea, and can bring in business at a quiet time of day.  Bear in mind that attendees may also want somewhere to meet clients at other times, so hosting a networking group can be a good way to promote your pub as a venue for meetings, coworking and client lunches throughout the week.

3. Offer a great welcome and atmosphere

Take an honest look at your pub. Is it friendly and welcoming?  Does it have the right atmosphere for a diverse range of customers? Community pubs need to cater for a variety of different customers, including people who work locally, families, young and old, as well as visitors to the area.

Nigel Williams, Bell Inn Bearstead has transformed his pub by being approachable and community friendly. His staff are there to entertain, to chat with customers and create a community pub experience.  He says “The minute we come into the bar, we’re on a stage and that’s about entertaining people: a good chitchat, a bit of gossip, or talking about the news. You can’t just pull a pint and go and stand in the corner.” 

4. Host community events

Consider holding community events to encourage people into your pub and making it a focal point in the local area.  Pub quizzes might seem like a cliché, but are very popular and bring in regular customers. Also take advantage of any local events such as Open Gardens, Scarecrow Trails, festivals, fun runs or food fairs.  Talk to the organisers and see what facilities could be provided at your pub.

5. Provide essential community services

These can be a very important source of customers especially in small towns and rural areas. High street post offices and banks are decreasing in number – providing a visiting service located in a pub for a few hours each week can make a tremendous difference to the lives of people in the locality.  It also raises awareness and encourages people to visit your pub.

Similarly, become a venue for local community groups to host their meetings. Clubs and societies that might otherwise have to hire a hall and provide their members with refreshments, welcome the opportunity to use a quiet room or area of the local pub.  

6. Appeal to families

Make your pub more family friendly.  It is an approach that has proved very successful at the Hideout Pub in Taunton as a result of the landlord’s innovative techniques. Landlord Simon says  “When a family comes into our pub we give them 3 things: free healthy juice drinks. The kids love them and the parents know we are looking after the children.  Colouring pencils and a dinosaur menu. We always frame the best picture of the week and keep it on the bar.  A voucher for the sweets bar – we show the children – then give it to mum or dad saying, they can give it to them only when they have earned it – so our children are beautifully behaved and eat every part of their meals.”

7. Live music

Live music is perennially popular, especially as in many parts of the country small music venues have closed down.  The only caveat is to make sure that the bands are good and that the sound levels are not so loud that it drowns out conversations. Check what type of music your customers prefer – you do not want to drive them away by playing music they hate!

Make sure you have a suitable licence for live music.  Promote each live session on noticeboards around the pub, and on social media.  Let customers know that something extra is being provided. 

Pubs are an essential part of British culture and there is no reason for this to change – be proactive, serve your community and customers will come to your pub.

If you want to run a community pub, click on the link below to apply to run a Greene King pub. Many of our pub operators are running successful community pubs, providing people in the area with an important community asset while also building a healthy and rewarding business. Apply today to start your search for your perfect pub!