What Should You Be Looking For When Taking On a New Pub?
Date added: Mon, 09/04/2018 - 10:00
Ambitious? Running a successful pub? You don’t have to stop at one pub when you become a pub operator. Pubs offer a fantastic way of developing a business portfolio trading across two or more sites. Increasing numbers of Greene King tenants and lessees are creating their own mini chains, sometimes replicating a proved and tested concept, on other occasions trying something new.
If you think now’s the time to start looking for a new pub, what are the key considerations you need to bear in mind when taking on another site?
Here we provide our advice for taking this next step.
Multi-Site Operators – What To Look Out For In A New Pub
Location, location, location
Choose your location wisely. Your new site needs to be easily accessible, both from your home and your existing pub(s). More than a half hour drive away begins to become unfeasible, as you may need to visit each site more than once in a day. At the same time you don’t want to be in direct competition with your existing pub, so if they’re close by they need to attract their own distinctive customer base.
However, opportunities may exist within the same town. Marlow based Hand and Flowers licensee, Tom Kerridge, saw an opportunity to take over the Coach, just down the road to provide a slightly different food offer. Very recently he also added yet another Marlow outlet, The Butchers Tap, by partnering with a local butcher and combining a butchers shop with a small pub.
Other pub operators have chosen to expand into nearby towns. Debi Sickelmore & Alan Monks operate two pubs in central London – the Duke of York and the Grafton Arms. A house move to Finchingfield in Essex, led them to decide to open a third site at The White Horse in Sudbury, which is within easy reach of their new home.
Since location will be an important factor in finding a suitable second or third site, your existing PubCo or brewery may not have any suitable sites in the area you are looking at. Be prepared to talk to more than one PubCo to ensure the maximum choice of available sites.
Format, style and opportunity
Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the new pub. Are you looking for a site where you can replicate what you have already been doing? Do you want to tweak the concept to attract a slightly different type of customer? Do you want the challenge of trying something totally different? Answers to these questions may help determine exactly where you choose to look for your next pub.
As the licensee of Taunton based The Hideout points out “I have been approached to run another pub in the town. But it wouldn’t work. I think a town can only support one pub like this – why should I compete with myself? To make money, I would have to invent something new, which doesn’t seem like good business sense to me. Better to open in another town and re-create The Hideout where it won’t impact on Taunton.”
In general, operators who have successfully operated one type of pub find it easiest to expand onto sites that have a similar style of trading, or have just minor differences in concept. This makes it easier to scale up systems and business formats from one to two or more sites. Operating a similar format across more than one pub, also allows you to benefit from cost advantages created by centralising resources such as marketing and promotion.
Clive Price of the Bletchingley Arms, Surrey has found that creating a format has allowed him to develop a chain of six pubs, three with Greene King and three with another Pubco. He comments, “We run a brand and try to carry it through to each pub. The formula seems to work in our pubs. It gets everyone to understand the standards and repeat them in the pubs. Each pub has its own character and individual feel but those same values and same traits run through as a common theme.”
Staffing, is your team ready to step up?
Staffing is a key consideration when expanding onto other sites. It is important to make sure that staff in your existing pub are able to step up to help you successfully grow the business. Having reliable staff capable of managing and running pubs when you are not around is essential. As the licensee of two or more pubs, you cannot give your full time and attention to any single one of them. There will be times when you have to be at a different location.
Taking on a new site often allows you to offer opportunities for talented staff already within your employment to stay and develop their careers within your business. These are people in whom you have already invested time and effort in training and so encouraging them to stay in your business will be much more cost effective than constantly hiring and training new people.
Staffing was a key reason for Debi Sickelmore & Alan Monks to expand from London to Sudbury. They already had staff who were ready to develop their own careers, and giving them a pub to run meant that Debi & Alan could provide the necessary challenge and not lose valued staff.
Debi says, “Ashley had been working with us for six years and Gary for two so we knew them well. They decided to get engaged and we felt that we wanted to help them. It’s amazing what motivated people can do, and we realised that the next step for them both would be to start their new life together with a pub to run for themselves. The White Horse would be great for them, and we’re pleased to say they are proving us right!”
Similarly, Tracey Parmee who runs The Red Lion at Bletchingley and The Woodman at Goathurst Common was motivated to take on a second pub by her staff. She says, “At The Red Lion I was outgrowing space for the people who work for me. So if I hadn’t got another place I would have lost them because they needed to do more.” Tracey talks about her experience of managing, training and providing opportunities for her staff in this interview here.
Planning, keep everyone in the loop
Think ahead and talk to your Business Development Manager about your plans at an early stage. They will be able to advise on your expansion plans, and also ensure you’re the first to hear of any suitable pubs within their area. They can also advise on the levels of investment that you will need to make. Organising finance and developing business plan outlines in advance will mean that as soon as the right opportunity occurs, you will be in a good position to take action quickly.
Expanding a pub business concept from one site to another is challenging but also very exciting if you have an entrepreneurial streak! It can also be extremely profitable, creating the perfect business concept for ambitious pub operators.
Sign up for our ‘planning’ email series if you’re thinking of taking on another site. Click on the link below.