Developing Pub Businesses In The North Of Scotland
Date added: Mon, 25/09/2017 - 10:00
Billy Guthrie is our Business Development Manager for the North of Scotland. He covers an area of approximately 64,000 km2! Of course, Belhaven (Greene King’s brand in Scotland) does not have a pub in every square kilometre of the country, but enough to keep Billy very busy travelling around this stunning part of the world.
In this post we interviewed Billy about his background and experience, and what it’s like running a pub in Scotland.
What experience do you bring to the role of Business Development Manager?
“I worked in sales and marketing in various roles before coming into the licence trade, even worked for a local football club - Dundee United. From there I applied for a job at Belhaven Brewery in the free trade sales sector, and worked there for three and half years. It was my first dealings with pubs and I really enjoyed it and liked the environment and the people.
“The next step for me was to help support the people involved through sales and try to make an impact on how the pub was run. This led to an opportunity to do the same for the Belhaven lease pubs.”
How different was it from selling beer?
“It was quite a steep learning curve in terms of the difference between selling beer into a pub and actually trying to support a tenant, recruit tenants and help the company and the tenant make money. It was completely different.
“Belhaven at the time was relatively small and just as I moved over Greene King bought the business. Nothing really changed for the first couple of years until Greene King integrated us into Pub Partners; this has enabled us to support tenants far better with the clout a larger company brings.
“I’ve been doing this particular role with Belhaven / Greene King in terms of the lease side for 10 years now.”
What do you enjoy about being a Business Development Manager?
“Part of my enjoyment in the role is putting someone in a pub. Going through the recruitment process, finding the right tenant for the right pub - not just putting anyone into the pub, even when we might be desperate to keep the pub open and trading - supporting them to help them make money, and seeing them develop. With my sales background it’s all about hitting targets, generating profit for the company, but at the same time it’s about generating profit for the tenant.”
What key piece of advice do you give pub tenants?
“I always say to the tenants ‘it’s financial, it’s lifestyle, it’s so much more than just a normal job. You either love it or hate it.’ If you love it, it can be one of the best things you ever do. But it does consume your life. It’s 24/7, there are financial gains and social / lifestyle gains.
“If you don’t like it, and it’s impacting on your finances, your relationships, your health it’s time to move on. If you don’t like it, it can be hell!”
What support do you offer pub tenants?
“It’s not a case of ‘how much money you have you got? Sign here, here are the keys and away you go!’ I’m their first point of contact, it’ll be me that goes with them to see the pub, that comes to see them on a weekly basis for the first month or so, and I’m the person they can pick the phone up to afterwards. My phone is on 24/7, they can call me whenever and I’ll provide the support they require.
“It’s all about the partnership with the tenant.”
What’s driving the pub industry in the North of Scotland?
“The North of Scotland is very much a tourist area. Scottish tourism is up and areas such as the Highlands, where we’ve got pubs, are thriving. It’s even becoming difficult for people to find places to stay because it’s become so popular. Because of issues such as Brexit, the Euro, terrorism etc. people are attracted to Scotland.
“A big part of tourism is around food, drink and hospitality; it’s very much the driving force in Scotland. Places like Perth, Aviemore, Inverness and Elgin (which sits on the whisky trail) are all on the up because of tourism.”
How have things changed in the last decade for pub operators?
“Gone are the days when you opened the door and people come into your pub. We’re now looking for ways to be different, to be the first with new ideas, to look ahead and see what’s going to be trending nine months down the line. Although what’s happening now is part of it, it’s also about licensees not just being satisfied with what they’ve got but looking for ways to improve and dial it up a little bit.”
How do you help pub operators compete in this marketplace?
“We need to be able to innovate and offer new things, even with that traditional feel. For example we’ve got pubs that a few years ago wouldn’t have thought about selling wine, coffee, driving more food sales or putting on events. Tenants need to provide customers with a reason why they should come to their pub. Is it the craft beer, the pub garden, or the really friendly staff? Or is it just the comfortable surroundings, being able to take kids there? We’re really trying to change our pubs to be somewhere that has something to offer for everyone.
“We’ve seen the likes of Costa, Starbucks and other companies impacting on our business – opening earlier, staying open later, or being licensed to sell alcohol; so we need to be able to change and combat that by offering an alternative. That could mean offering coffee and somewhere to work with your laptop, it’s not just about going for a pint.”
What would you say to someone thinking about taking on a pub in Scotland?
“Come and have a chat about it! We can help you get into the trade, or help experienced operators take on their next site, nothing ventured nothing gained!”
If you are interested in taking on pub tenancy or lease in Billy’s area of Scotland, click on the links below to explore pubs that are currently available. Alternatively, complete our application form today and we can start working with you to find you the right pub.
You can also join our Facebook group for Scotland. This forum is for anyone working in the licensed trade, or is thinking about becoming a licensee, to share their experience, insights and get inspiration for other pub operators. Click here to join.