How to identify when a pub lease is the right investment for you

Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 02/12/2019 - 15:29

If you are looking to rent or lease a pub, it is important to find one which is best suited to your objectives and outcomes. Its success and future growth will not just be down to your knowledge of how to run a pub, but the type of clientele it is able to attract alongside what can practically be done with the available space.

There are likely to be many different types of pubs to rent, some which are completely modernised and others which will require extensive refurbishing and improvements. Whatever you wish to choose will come down to personal preference, but when viewing different pubs, it can be useful to consider the following:

●         Does the décor need to be updated to appeal to a new generation of customers?

●         What space does the venue have to cater for customers (in the bar areas, restaurant and outside)?

●         Does the premise have potential to be a cost-effective venue for customers wanting to hold events or hiring out space?

●         Is the kitchen large enough to service the number of food covers you want to deliver?

Making that important investment in a pub business can seem quite daunting, especially when it comes to identifying what elements of the business need a little TLC and how much to apply, as we all know that any investment needs to have a reason and a return.

Nine small changes that will make a positive impact

In an industry where innovation is valued just as much as tradition, owning a pub means you often face the challenge of making sure that your venue meets the modern customers’ demands while maintaining those traditional features that punters love. Don’t be put off by a pub that doesn’t seem perfect because there are lots of small adaptions that can be made to make it the pub of your dreams. Here we share nine small changes every potential pub landlord can consider investing in, to make a positive impact and ensure it is the right investment for you:

1. Apply a lick of paint

There is always an opportunity to pop your own stamp on the place and give it a new lease of life. Stroll past the pub as if you were a customer and identify whether you would be drawn to paying a visit. Does it look open? Does it look presentable? It is surprising how a lick of paint, for example, can transform the exterior of a pub and give it a completely new look.

Martyn Stewart was faced with this exact situation at the Dining Room in Kirkaldy. She explains, “we felt one of the biggest handicaps was the colour of the building. It had been painted a dull brown and simply didn’t stand out to passing traffic and was being overlooked. Belhaven agreed with us and repainted the building – a simple solution that has made a huge difference to trade.”

2. Location, location, location

Not that there is much you can change about the location of the pub, but do remember it’s an asset in itself, so make the most of it to strengthen your place in the community. Make sure you are in regular contact with local groups and make your pub a meeting point for parents, monthly meetups, book clubs, etc. Social media is a wonderful (and free) asset for keeping in touch with your customers and local community, as well as sharing your latest offers and news.

3. Offer warm and welcoming interiors

Internal furnishings and fixtures can be revamped and modernised for very little outlay. Your customers will often spend hours at a time in your pub, so maintaining its interior is extremely important. In a busy pub environment, curtains and cushions, or coverings on sofas can quickly become worn and faded as a result of daily use so make sure you are getting this deep cleaned on a regular basis to sustain them.

4. Maximise space

Maximising space in a pub doesn’t have to mean expensive alterations or extensions. There are hundreds of options available that are affordable and less disruptive.

Painting the interior in a lighter shade will create the illusion of space, yet for those wanting to create an element of cosiness, then warmer colours such as navy and red can create this.

No customer enjoys walking into a pub and being unable to locate a comfortable seating area. Updating tables and chairs improves the overall décor and makes it easier to adjust the layout to maximise space and improve access when serving food and drink.

Gardens are great for adding inexpensive extra catering space. One pub that expanded its outdoor facilities is the Rose & Crown at Egham. Clive Price says: “We are just about to commission a purpose-built pizza oven and servery – all built into a shipping container! As a temporary structure, it won’t need planning permission and working with a design company, we have managed to create a solution that has come in at under £40,000 but will provide an amazing experience that customers will enjoy and recommend to others in the area.”

5. Make a conscious effort to be eco-friendly

The theme of sustainability is an important one, and the majority of pubs can apply small steps to ensure they are contributing.

Eliminating plastic straws and paper napkins is one of the easiest measures a pub can take to be better for the environment. Ensure that behind the bar, staff have access to bins that allow materials to be recycled. If your pub has a restaurant, then it might be possible to upcycle some of the food from your cocktails for the kitchen and vice versa.

Equally worth thinking about are changes to your lighting systems. Replacing lighting with energy efficient bulbs will improve its ambiance both inside and outside, as well has help to reduce the cost of running a pub.

6. Invest in technology

Technology gives customers new and exciting ways to eat and drink, and is driving change in pubs too. Smartphones, predictive analysis and tech to ensure the staff are pouring the perfect pint are just some of the ways technology can be applied in a pub to ensure a more seamless, cost-effective and modernised experience.

7. Invest in the beer garden

There are many ways to ensure pub gardens are used all year round including installing covered areas such as lodges and cabanas where customers can enjoy privacy and some shelter from the weather. Cushioned seats, even the provision of blankets on cool nights, can make dining or drinking outside a pleasure, enabling customers to watch the stars come out and relax in the open air.

Neglecting or not making the most of the outside space can result in not fulfilling your pubs earning potential. Andrena from The Scottish Engineer says: “The Scottish Engineer is proving really popular with many of our customers. I think we offer everything. We’ve got a great quality, local feel about us. We cater for all ages, very family friendly. We have sports, live entertainment at the weekend and we can seat 172 people inside, 132 people outside, meaning we’ve got capacity for the local area.”

8. Get your team right

Your carefully chosen staff will become the ultimate driving force behind your day-to-day operations, so it is vital you make time to appoint the right people for the right role and provide ongoing training. After all, the team that surrounds you will be your biggest asset, so ensure you are surrounded by people you can trust and who can take a lot of the stress away from running your own pub.

9. Focus on the customer experience

It is important when running a pub that you make your venue stand out from the rest within the local area by offering the best experience. Not only does it mean providing a service with a smile, but it also means being creative by being receptive to change and trying new things for example, new dishes on a menu, themed events, BBQ during the summer, showing different sports and experimenting with the drinks menu.

It’s important to touch base with your customers regularly who will always be more than willing to offer their feedback, as well as keeping an eye on your competitors to see what they are doing to improve their customer experience. Be mindful of online feedback through review websites, such as Trip Advisor. It’s important to respond to your online feedback as much as you can, particularly feedback that may not be as positive as you’d like. It’s still feedback and your customers will be looking at how you respond. It’s important to be respectful and professional, as customers want to know you care. Handled well, those customers will return to experience your pub again.

Take action

Taking a look at current pub tenancy vacancies can help you to gain a better perspective on what is available. If you’ve found several pubs to lease or rent that have great scope but you are struggling to decide which to invest in, have a chat with your Business Development Manager. Talking through your options and ideas with them can often throw up new ideas or concepts that the BDM’s have seen in practice elsewhere. The PubCo may also have that pub earmarked for investment, so it’s a good opportunity to explore how you can work with them to develop it.

PubCos like Greene King are keen to work with licensees who want to innovate and develop really profitable and exciting businesses. So, if you’ve got ideas for a pub that they want to support, investment may be forthcoming.

For more advice and ideas for refurbishing a pub, read our post – Refurbishing Your Pub And Taking It To The Next Level.