Meeting The Locals: It Is The Right Pub For You?

running a pub with a busy crowd of customers
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 09/01/2017 - 10:00

A pub is not just about the building, the décor, the beer or the food offering. The most important factor is the customers. Not only are they going to pay your bills, they also contribute to the atmosphere and nature of the pub. Therefore it is vital that when looking for a pub to let, you also decide whether or not you like the existing customers - and whether they will like you and your plans for the pub.

When starting in a new pub it is all too easy to become focused on bringing in the changes you want to make – altering menus, refurbishments, giving the pub a new atmosphere, a new vibe. But although these changes will be made to create a viable and exciting business for you, the existing customers also need to be onside.

Don’t make the mistake of inflicting your ideas for the pub on a hostile local clientele, you’ll find that they vote with their feet and not many landlords can afford to lose customers overnight. In our recent interview with Nigel Williams, landlord at the Bell in Bearsted, he stresses the importance of listening to the existing customers and getting their support before embarking on any major changes.

If you’re ready to take on a pub you can start the process with Greene King by applying here.

Check Out The Locals When You Check Out The Pub

Although you may have plans to attract different customers to your pub, this will not happen overnight. Most pubs will have a core group of locals who visit on a regular basis, and generally they will live in the local area.

Your locals are very important – think of them as fixtures and fittings! They are the people who will come back time and time again, often two or three times a week for a drink or two, and perhaps a bar snack.  They are bringing in regular money and will be putting £s upon £s across the bar every week.  These are customers who have to be kept happy.

Therefore, when you look at potential pubs as well as exploring the building, facilities etc., you also need to check out the locals. Can you see yourself serving them night after night? Are you going to be able to establish a rapport with them? Is their idea of what constitutes a great pub the same as yours?

You can still make changes, but these need to be done with your locals in mind.

Getting Support From The Locals

It is not surprising that when a new landlord takes over a pub, the locals often regard them with a certain amount of suspicion! After all, this is their pub, often somewhere they’ve been coming to for many years, and they will be concerned that you’re going to make changes that they don’t like.

However, they will also understand that you need to run a profitable business. That you are investing in the pub to ensure you can afford to serve them night after night, and that your investment should ensure ‘their’ pub continues to thrive for years to come.

If you can get the locals on your side when planning changes, you’ll have a much better chance of making it a success: providing them with the pub they want, and you with the business you want.

Talk to them about the pub and find out what in their view has worked in the past, or what has not worked. Why do they keep coming to the pub? What is it that appeals to them about this particular pub, compared to others in the vicinity?  Discuss the potential changes you would like to make with them and make sure they are fully on your side.  They need to feel welcome and feel that these changes will improve the pub, making it an even better place to be. They also need to understand all your reasons for making changes.

With their support, the changes can be brought in painlessly with no long-term loss of custom.

Community Focus

Wherever your pub is situated, even if it’s in a busy city centre, there will always be a community of locals. In a village location this may include a large proportion of the local residents; whereas in a city that community could be consist of office workers at lunchtimes and after work, and other regulars later in the evening.

As a new local publican, it is important to be responsive to that community’s needs. It may be providing a dartboard and space for the local darts league, or getting involved in local initiatives and events in the area.

Balancing the needs of the community and locals with your plans for the pub shouldn’t be too difficult. After all if you can provide a reason for regular customers to return again and again you’ll have a great foundation to grow the business around this core base.

In summary:

  • Make sure you check out the existing clientele at the same time as looking at other fixtures and fittings in a potential pub,
  • When you take on a pub listen to the locals: do you market research before making any major changes,
  • Keep communicating with the locals about your plans for the pub; explain your reasons for making changes and invite feedback. Get their support,
  • Remember your pub is a hub in the local community; make sure it fulfils this role.

If you’re looking for a pub to take on and are ready to start exploring your options, please get in touch with our team to see whether they have a suitable opportunity – call 0845 607 5330.

You may also like to sign up for this email series designed to help you decide if now is the right time for you to take on a pub. Register here.