Getting Back Into The Pub Trade

run a pub, pub trade
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:00

Considering a return to the pub trade?  Changing family circumstances or a desire to broaden their business experience often causes landlords to opt out of the pub world for a few years before returning intent on building a new business.  It can certainly be done – but be prepared for a changed world.

Running a pub is no longer purely a lifestyle business. While people still decide to run a pub in retirement, or because they’re attracted to the lifestyle of living and working in a pub, it has to be a business decision first and foremost. These days the emphasis is on professionally run, profit making pubs quick to respond to new ideas and new revenue streams.

That’s what competitors are doing, and therefore if you want your pub to thrive you need to run it as a proper business.  That said, you can still have a family business and enjoy the lifestyle, but operating a pub needs everyone to do their share of the work, generating income and profits. 

The Evolving Role Of UK Pubs

Pubs have become one of the most rapidly evolving sectors of the British hospitality industry.  Within the past few years, the pub trade has undergone tremendous changes and landlords have had to adapt their working methods, business ideas, marketing and staffing. In fact virtually every aspect of pub life, including customers, drinking and eating habits has evolved and is continuing to change steadily.

Diversification

There is now much more diversification.  Pubs are evolving to suit their customer base and location. Some are becoming much more sports based, focusing on attracting large numbers to watch major sports events of all kinds, while others are much more family orientated. Yet more pubs are attracting considerable custom from groups keen to find a comfortable place to meet whether it is for a meal, a corporate event or simply networking. 

Music is another popular option particularly among town centre pubs that lack a local residential community, and need to attract evening crowds. Acting as a venue for music groups provides a varied offering from pop to folk, jazz to blues, each of which attracts a different audience.

Many pubs have added their own micro-breweries on the premises.  It attracts attention especially if customers can watch the brewing process. And it is not just beer that is involved. At The Antelope & Cider House in Surbiton has an on site brewery while other pubs have added a gin distillery or plan to make their own rum.

Other landlords have focused on gaining specialist knowledge, offering high quality spirits or wine.  Recent years have seen a renewed interest in gin distilling, but new trends are also developing.  Rum is now beginning to be the focus of attention with the arrival of The Rum Festival events expanding people’s awareness of the vast range of rums from aged to white rums, sweet to spiced rums. 

Then there is the consumer interest in cocktails and their non-alcoholic mocktail equivalents.  Cocktails have been gaining in popularity especially among younger people, while mocktails are especially popular with drivers who want something slightly more adventurous and sophisticated than an orange juice.  Since these are premium priced drinks, they can contribute substantially to the overall profitability of a pub.  But to do so, staff and landlord need to be trained in the correct mixes, and give it that little bit of theatre that makes a cocktail offer stand out.

Food is another sector of the pub business that has moved on substantially over the past decade or so.  Customers choosing to eat at a pub are no longer satisfied with a simple offer of chips and burgers or a selection of sandwiches.  Now they look for wraps, for burritos, artisan breads, tapas, pancakes and healthy, often gourmet food. 

Gastro pubs have become one of the most popular business sectors, often owned and run by professional chefs like Steve Berringer of The Anchor, or Tom Kerridge at the Hand & Flowers. These are not formal restaurants, but places where people can enjoy the casual dining that is now so popular.  As Steve Berringer points out, “For us it was cheaper to get a pub than lease a restaurant. It’s a lot more flexible as it’s more social and relaxed. With a pub you’ve got different options, you can go in and have three courses or just a drink and a snack.”

Customers

An important key change that has taken place is the fact that the customer base is evolving.  There are now far fewer young people visiting pubs on a regular basis.  More than one in four 16 to 24 year olds do not drink at all.  Overall, younger people are drinking far less than their parents.  Landlords need added reasons to get this younger age group involved, and have to put on events and activities that will appeal to them.

Pub marketing reflects this change.  Successful pubs now actively use social media, have their own Facebook pages, blogs, tweet on Twitter and share images of meals on Instagram.  Publicans are increasingly social media savvy, using this as a way to engage with their customers and promote events or encourage customers to book space at the pub for celebrations or community activities.

More advice on digital marketing can be found here.

Are You Ready To Get Stuck Back In?

Having experience of the pub trade is extremely valuable when it comes to taking the reins of a new pub.  It is far easier to re-engage with activities like choosing beers, changing barrels, serving customers, pub organisation and accounts.  All it needs is a basic refresher course so that publicans can familiarise themselves with new legislation or health & safety requirements. 

But, having experience doesn’t count for everything.  You also need to be flexible and adaptable, prepared to be innovative and take into account that pub life has changed, and is continuing to evolve.  By talking to a Business Development Manager you will quickly discover just how to adapt your existing knowledge to this rapidly changing world and create something special that will suit yourself, your brewer and your customers.

For those determined to succeed, a pubs are a great opportunity to develop an extremely successful business. Are you ready to get back in?

If you’re not quite ready, sign up for our email series that shares the expertise of our Pub Partners team and how many people are building exciting pub businesses. Sign up here.

Alternatively, if you’re ready to apply and get back into the pub trade, click here to apply today.