Can You Make Money Running A Pub?

run a pub, pub tenancy,
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 13/02/2017 - 10:00

Can you make money running a pub? The answer is definitely yes. The potential is certainly there. A successful pub can provide not just a great lifestyle but a good income too.

The key to success is to treat your pub business as you would any other business. Running a pub may be a sociable job, but it is still a business even if your mates are sitting at the bar.

Running A Pub: Business Planning

The first step is to have a business plan. If you run a pub with Greene King you won’t get through the door without one! A business plan will help you explore how to run a profitable business. It will help you do the number crunching and set out what you need to do to generate the income you desire.

The Right Pub

Making money running a pub also depends on finding the right one.

If you have quite specific ideas about what you want to do with a pub, you’ll need to assess any opportunities with those in mind. Alternatively, you may be more flexible about the type of pub you run and therefore you’ll need to adjust your ideas for each potential pub.

Either way, every pub you look at needs to be assessed on its own merits and you must be realistic about the potential revenue each pub offers. Once you’ve found one that ticks all the right boxes you can then develop your business plan with that specific pub in mind to explore its potential fully.

Business Development Manager

At Greene King our pub landlords all have their own Business Development Manager (BDM) who support them throughout their pub journey.

Our BDMs are often ex-landlords themselves and therefore really understand what it takes to make money running a pub. They’re here to help – so make use of them!

Talk to your business development advisor as they can provide a lot of useful ideas and insight. As well as any practical experience they may have, they also have a vast amount of knowledge about running a business and specifically a pub business. As they are constantly dealing with pubs of all kinds, they can often spot opportunities that could work in your pub. Discuss potential ideas with them and take advantage of their skills and knowledge.

Growing Your Pub Business

The more effort you put into it, the more successful you will be.  Constantly look for opportunities to expand and grow your business. Talk to your customers and keep yourself aware of all that is happening in and around your pub and community. Identify events and opportunities that will bring customers – and money – into your pub.

At periodic intervals, step back and take a long look at your business.

  • Analyse which activities have been profitable and which ones haven’t.
  • Study your accounts and make sure you know which products are selling, which aren’t and where future opportunities lie. 
  • Be totally honest with yourself and ask what is working, and what isn’t. 
  • Introduce improvements to your food and drinks offer. What would appeal to your customers? Perhaps a bigger whisky or cider selection would appeal to a wider market?

Keep Innovating!

Aim to come up with one or two new ideas each week that will help build business.  Ask your staff for ideas.  Give those ideas a trial, a few will inevitably be less successful but take advantage of those that bring in the cash and customers. Repeat them; with a new twist each time.

Think about new trends – cocktails are big at the moment so how about a 1930’s evening, a cocktail mixing session, cocktail tasting evenings and investigate the potential of adding mocktails to your bar provision.  Mocktails (non alcoholic cocktails) are increasingly popular especially with nominated drivers who are able to drink something a little more adventurous than fruit juice or soft drinks.

If you are on a main road or a tourist route with little competition, opening for coffee or afternoon tea could well bring in extra traffic from drivers needing a break. Or how about opening for breakfast and doing a full English every morning?

Letting rooms to visitors can be another useful method of generating income especially in a tourist area.  Many people like staying in smaller places, as it is more friendly and relaxed.  The demand for rooms is certainly present. Take The Four Horseshoes at Thornham in Suffolk, for example. This is a traditional thatched pub that has seven rooms to let – and these are almost constantly occupied.

A Business Within A Business

Also worth considering are ways to work with your operator to run more than just a pub. For example a microbrewery, a gourmet restaurant or a gin distillery as this creates yet more opportunities to make money. 

The Antelope & Cider House in Surbiton opened an on site brewery, trading as the Big Smoke Brewery, six months after landlord James Morgan took over the pub. The Greene King joint venture allowed him to open that second business and increase revenues.  It has proved profitable. On days when they brew, a mention on Facebook or Twitter leads to an extra £500 or £600 worth of sales.  Lunches are much busier too as a result.

He says, “the more we do, the bigger the profits. It has been a winning ticket for us.”

Your Own Micro Pub Chain

Expanding onto more sites is another way in which to generate profits. Having gained experience running one successful pub, landlords often choose to create a small chain of pubs. 

Peter and Shirley of the Countryman in Nottinghamshire worked with Greene King to refurbish their pub turning it from a traditional local to a food destination pub.  The result was an increase in profits, and eventually a decision to take on a second pub at Fiskerton, building on their successful mode at the Countryman and consolidating their experience, skills and greater buying power.

Similarly, Andrew Macmillan of The Swan in Long Melford expanded from one pub to three pubs, allowing him to build a family business in which his children decided to participate.  With freedom to run their business as they wanted, they have been able to develop a highly successful, and profitable business model.

Your Pub Adventure Needs A Roadmap For Success!

Whatever business model is chosen, it is important to regularly check your progress according to your business plan. This will enable you to see whether you are on track to meet your aims and projected profits – or need to make some adjustments. 

Be honest with yourself.  If something is not working and not proving profitable, find out why and whether it can be resolved. If not, don’t waste time on it.

Watch the accounts, keep budgets in order and take every opportunity to develop new income streams.  Watch what is happening in your area, and be ready to take action as needed. Be prepared to innovate and to work closely with your BDM, who wants you to succeed and develop a profitable business.

Hard work and innovation can be extremely profitable in the pub business. This is a flexible industry, open to ideas and perfect for developing small to medium sized businesses.  It can be an extremely satisfying lifestyle, and one, which can also generate a good, long-term income.

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