What To Look For When Viewing Potential Pubs

find a pub, pub tenancy
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 14/08/2017 - 10:00

You’ve made the decision to become a pub licensee, sorted out your finances and just need to find a suitable pub. Where do you start? Is it just a matter of going round a few pubs and finding one that you like?

Sometimes you can walk through the door of a pub and know it’s right for you. But even though our gut instinct can be a very reliable way of deciding whether an opportunity is a good one, we also need to make a decision with our heads!

Therefore, it is important to have checklist in mind when you view potential pubs, and have a clear idea of what you’re looking for.

What Do You Want From A Pub?

Sit down with your family or business partners and work out exactly what you want.  Create a list of essential features such as type of location, local demographic, business style, size of building, restaurant.  Ask yourself what exactly you want from your new pub?  Do you want to provide a great food offer? Focus on entertainment? Have a family friendly pub? Do you want to provide rental accommodation for guests, or space to host events?

Don’t forget your own personal needs. Do you want to live on site? If so, how many bedrooms will your family require? Or if you plan to provide accommodation for a pub manager, what does that need to be like?

With this list in mind, you can then start to shortlist potential pubs, highlighting the ones that match your requirements. You’ll find listings of available pubs on pub company and brewery websites – like this one – and also on specialist estate agency sites.

However, not all pubs are listed- some get snapped up before they hit the websites. To get a chance at any of these, often very desirable pubs, you need to be already talking to the brewery or PubCo. This involves applying to run a pub with suitable pub operators so that they already know what you’re looking for.

Here at Greene King we have a process that means we can be proactive in finding potential business partners (our licensees) pub opportunities that match their requirements. Having completed our online application form, we will let you know about suitable pubs as they become available – rather than you having to constantly monitor the listing pages.

You can apply here today, and don’t worry if you decide not to take a pub tenancy or lease with Greene King. By applying you are not obligated in any way.

Viewing Potential Pubs

Once you have identified a few suitable pubs, allow plenty of time for viewing each one.  Bear in mind, that viewing a potential pub is just like viewing a house in which you are thinking of living. You need a calm head, a clear idea of what you want and an ability to recognise long term potential. 

On arriving at a potential pub, have a look around the immediate area first. What type of neighbourhood is it? Would people have to drive to the pub or is there a large catchment nearby? 

Then look at the pub.  Take a long, hard look at the exterior. What condition is it in? Are repairs or repainting necessary? Does it look attractive and welcoming? Are there any potholes in the car park, and is it easy to park?

What is the condition of the pub garden and any exterior seating? If you plan to target a family audience, think about facilities for children.  Do any currently exist on the site, or would you need to install suitable play equipment?

Take a look at the available space and decide if there is sufficient room and how much regular maintenance would be needed to keep the garden in a good condition.  Ask yourself if the exterior of the pub offers any potential for improvement, be it in terms of décor, signage or facilities. 

The next stage is to consider the interior of the pub. Take your time about this, because it is extremely important. Put yourself in the position of a customer, buy a drink, sit back and look around.  This gives you time to absorb the atmosphere, the overall impact of a place in which you may eventually be spending a lot of your time.

Remember that things can be changed. In fact, many of our business partners are looking for pubs that they can put their stamp on. So don’t be too concerned about the things that you think are ‘wrong’, such as the food offer or the level of service the current bar staff deliver. You can do something about this!

That said you must be realistic about whether the pub is suitable for the kind of business you want to run. If you want to change the food offer to fine dining, but the pub is in a location serving a demographic that don't want that kind of pub experience, it’s not going to work. Instead you may find a different food offer is more appropriate, and will still deliver the growth and ROI you require.

Also look at what the pub is currently getting right. The things that attract customers to the pub will be very important to you, especially in the early days. These factors, if you continue to build on them, will provide you with on-going custom as you develop your own ideas. Keeping loyal customers onside when new licensees take over a pub is extremely important, so bear those customers’ preferences in mind.

Look For Potential

What do you want to do with your pub? No doubt you have lots of ideas about the kind of business you want to run, now you need to decide whether you can achieve those goals in that premise. You’ll need to consider whether it will be necessary to refurbish the pub, find ways to increase trading space, update kitchen facilities etc. etc. In which case there will be financial considerations that will also need to be explored.

Always consider the pub’s long term potential. Andrena Smith Bowes and Alan Bowes run The Elizabethan pub in Dunfermline.  When they looked at the pub they could see that it was a large pub, but was using its space ineffectively.  Given that it was situated within a large residential area, there was a big pool of potential customers that were currently not being attracted to the pub.  Andrena says that they transformed the business by bringing it up to standard. “The outside of the pub has been smartened up and a new decking area created, but it’s inside where the biggest changes have happened. We now have a huge dining area that can seat 147 covers.”

Likewise Paul Wigham, licensee of The Crown in St Albans recognised the potential of a site even though it needed considerable refurbishment to bring it up to the standards sought by the affluent customers living in the area.  He says,

“Since we have re-opened, the business has transformed. Customers talk – so people already know about us and it looks like they are saying great things. I couldn’t be more delighted!”

Careful viewing will reveal whether this is the pub for you, along with a bit of gut instinct. However, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Our Pub Partners team are here to help you find the right pub, working with our business partners to explore the opportunities each pub presents and find ways to help licensees get the kind of business they want.

To get support with your pub search, you need to apply to run a pub with Greene King. All that you need to do is complete our application form and we’ll be in touch.

You may also like to read our blog post about the applying to a run a pub including a checklist of all the things you need to think about. Click here to read the post.