Why Entrepreneurs Are Looking at Pubs as Exciting Business Opportunities
Date added: Mon, 22/02/2016 - 10:00
How much do you really enjoy your work at the moment? It is something that many people consider at some point in their career. It could be that you are looking for ways to use your existing skills or maybe you want an investment opportunity. There are good reasons in both these scenarios to think about running your own pub – or even a chain of pubs.
Take Paul Wigham, chief executive of the All Our Bars pub group. He had a successful career in IT and publishing. He’d never thought about running pubs until a friend asked him to invest in one.
As Paul began to get more involved in his friend’s pub, he realised that working with good business principles could make the pub a success and decided that he had the right skills to do it himself. Today’s successful pubs are no longer community boozers – they’re places where people come to eat, spend time with friends or family, and enjoy entertainment such as quiz nights, live music or even comedy shows and coffee mornings.
Although Paul’s business experience underpins the success of his pubs, his instincts are just as important. Sunday lunch, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas and other times of the year all create business opportunities for today’s pubs. Making the most of them doesn’t necessarily need special skills – it can be as simple as thinking: ‘What would I like to do? How can I make that happen for my customers?’ You just have to make sure that every decision you make has your customer in mind.
Paul says that although he has a background in finance, he describes himself as ‘a reluctant accountant – I get a feeling for what will work and then keep an eye on the numbers to make sure things are OK.’
His decision to get involved in the management of the pub himself paid off, and he’s since added many more pubs to his portfolio. ‘It’s been hard work, but I’m proud of the fact that I now have 24 pubs managed by my company, All Our Bars,’ says Paul. ‘I’ll be the first to say I have made mistakes along the way, but it’s important to learn from them and apply that knowledge next time.’
Paul recently added Greene King’s the Crown in St Albans to his growing portfolio. It has now re-opened after an extensive refurbishment. The traditional pub look has been updated in a stylish and contemporary way, with a palette of blue and grey historic colours and comfortable sofas. ‘This is quite an affluent area and people have plenty of choice where to drink. I had to make the Crown somewhere they wanted to visit,’ says Paul.
‘I believe that attention to detail makes all the difference,’ he explains. ‘Customers appreciate it when the little things are right. For example, in the recent refurbishment I realised the women’s toilets were not being finished to the level my customers would expect, so I made sure they were upgraded. If it’s important to customers, then it’s important to me too.’
Training is another area where Paul’s business skills have given All Our Bars an edge over the competition. In the past, pub staff training could often be a little more than showing new bar staff how to work the pumps. But while the pub was closed, Paul used the time to recruit new members of the team who would be working alongside some of the existing staff. ‘I’m a firm believer in training and decided that everybody should be re-trained – even if they had worked here before. We then put in place an on-going programme to keep everybody up-to-date. I’m passionate about delivering the highest level of service so this makes good business sense to me.’
The Crown’s range of spirits, wine and beer gets the same attention to detail. ‘We stock a large number of premium spirits and beers. I think that’s where our pub will start to set itself apart from our competitors in the area. It isn’t enough to stick a bottle on a shelf and hope it’s going to sell. Customers paying for a premium drink want excellent service and need to know the story behind the brand that they are buying. I make sure that all my team know about the products they’re selling, so they can talk about the drink and serve it perfectly. It’s all part of the experience that customers are paying for.’
Paul clearly enjoys what he does – and his customers enjoy it, too. ‘Since we have re-opened, the business has transformed,’ he says. ‘Customers talk – so people already know about us and it looks like they are saying great things. I couldn’t be more delighted!’
If you have an existing company and are wondering if branching out into the pub business is a good idea, then talk to the Greene King Pub Partners team. They have all the experience you need to talk this through.