How to run a pub

The definitive guide to becoming a Pub Landlord

Many people dream of leaving employment to become their own boss, creating unlimited opportunities for themselves and their families. Does this sound like you? If so, we have some good news: it doesn’t have to be a dream, it can be a reality.

When you decide to open your own pub, you open the door to a whole new world of opportunity and freedom. It’s challenging, and you’ll need to work hard to make it work, but if you’re determined and willing, the possibilities are endless.

We’ve put together this in-depth guide for people just like you: people who want to make a difference. It contains all the information you need to make a decision about your future – including some real feedback from some of our existing landlords.

Running a pub: Do you have what it takes?

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’ve already thought about running a pub. What does that mean to you? Spending your evenings stood behind the bar, pouring pints and chatting to the locals, who have become good friends since you opened the pub a couple of years ago? Perhaps there’s an important football match on the screens, so you decide to leave the bar in the capable hands of your staff, and put your feet up for the rest of the evening. It all sounds quite perfect doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this romantic vision is a far cry from the reality of running a pub. It isn’t always glamorous, particularly when you first start out, and you’ll have to work extremely hard if you want your pub to succeed. You must be prepared for long, strenuous days, difficult customers, and never-ending to-do lists. What happens if you planned to take the evening off, but a member of staff calls to say they’re sick? Or you have a problem in one of the bathrooms, and your plumber’s on holiday?

Don’t let that put you off, however. If you’re willing to take the rough with the smooth, running a pub is one of the most rewarding career choices out there. When the hard work pays off, and you witness a room full of happy customers, having fun and enjoying the atmosphere of the pub you’ve created, there’s no feeling quite like it. 

You will become good friends with the locals. You will have the opportunity to relax and soak up the atmosphere of your very own pub. You will build a fantastic team of staff to relieve some of the pressure. With a little persistence and determination, anything is possible.

Managing a pub: What’s involved?

Now we’ve set the scene, let’s consider the finer details of running a pub. What exactly is involved? As the Pub Landlord, you will be responsible for everything, from ensuring legal compliance to keeping the stock levels topped up. Here are some of the key activities that must take place during a typical day in the life of a Pub Landlord:

Legal compliance

All landlords must adhere to the Licensing Act 2003. This is possibly the most important aspect of your job, as failure to comply with this legislation can put your business at risk of closure.

The law focuses on the following four objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder,
  • Public safety,
  • Prevention of public nuisance,
  • The protection of children from harm.

When you run your own pub, you must have a premises license and, as the premises supervisor, you must also hold a personal license. Your employees are not required to hold personal licenses, as the premises license will provide sufficient cover.

At Greene King, we know how confusing the legal aspects can be for those new to pub management, so we have a team of people on hand to provide licensing advice, should you require it.

Staff management and training

When you’re running a pub, ensuring you have the right staff should be your top priority. When you get it right, your team becomes your biggest asset, and can reduce the stress of running your own business considerably.

To get the best results from your staff, you’ll need to spend some time planning your management. From the very first interviews through to understanding your obligations as defined in employment law, you’ll need to have everything covered.

Training is one of the most important aspects of staff management, and you’ll need to think carefully about the type of training you’ll provide for your team. Some types of training are mandatory. For example, all members of staff will need to understand their obligations, as outlined by the Licensing Act. They’ll need to understand your identification criteria, and contribute to the fulfilment of all relevant legislation.

You’ll have more control over many other aspects of training, so you’ll need to plan this in advance. For example, what kind of customer experience would you like to create? When it comes to customer satisfaction, the behaviour of your staff is key, so you’ll need to ensure your team shares the same values.

Our Pub Partners website, an exclusive online portal for Greene King landlords, contains a variety of training modules, which can be taken by you and your staff. We currently offer a range of general training options, such as:

  • Customer Service,
  • First Aid,
  • Health and Safety,
  • Food Safety Level 2.

There are also specialist modules available within the portal, for landlords who wish to go the extra mile, such as dedicated coffee and wine training.

Stock control

Stock control is a vital activity, to ensure both customer satisfaction and maximum profits. You should carefully monitor your stock levels, and use the data to ensure sufficient quantities of each item are reordered, leaving plenty of time for the delivery to arrive.

Failure to monitor your stock effectively can result in cash flow problems and overstocking, both of which may affect your profits. It’s a balancing act; you must ensure you keep the minimum level of stock available, whilst avoiding any shortages.

There are many stock management programs that can assist with this activity, saving time and ensuring the highest degree of accuracy. An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system will produce detailed information regarding your sales, which can be used alongside your stock monitoring processes to predict future sales, ordering just the right amount of stock.

Food and Drink

Serving food in your pub is an excellent way to add value and maximise profits. Creating a great food offering is an easy way to stand out in the industry, and establish your pub as the best place to eat and drink.

You could go down the traditional route, offering comforting British pub food, or you could decide to offer something a little bit different. Whatever you decide, you must plan this aspect of your business carefully to ensure success.

You’ll need a team of staff for the kitchen, and it’s a good idea to employ people who already have experience, particularly if this is something you lack. If you have the budget available, hiring an experienced head chef can be a good way to delegate the responsibility of running a successful kitchen. You’ll still need to oversee the activities and work with the chef to create the menus, but you’ll benefit from the expertise and knowledge, provided you are able to find a suitable candidate.

It’s also important to consider the drinks you’ll stock within the pub. Greene King can assist with this process, providing a number of recommendations. We also recommend the iDraft software, which monitors everything from the temperature of your draught beers to the quality of the line cleaning. It integrates with your EPOS system, providing you with an invaluable insight into the success of your products. This will enable you to evaluate the success of each beer, keeping on the popular choices whilst experimenting with new choices.


When you run your own pub, you’re also responsible for the general maintenance. This includes day-to-day activities, such as general cleaning, line cleaning, and preventative maintenance to ensure your equipment remains in good, working condition. Many landlords decide to hire cleaning contractors to keep the pub sparkling, but you may decide to do this yourself as you’re just starting out.

You will also need to consider ad-hoc maintenance. What if something goes wrong with the building, or important equipment breaks down? You’ll need to act as a trouble-shooter, and quickly find solutions to any problems that may arise.

We have different types of lease available, each with different maintenance requirements. Some require you to take care of all maintenance activities, including structural repairs to the building, whereas others will ensure we share the responsibilities with you. We’ll look at these agreements in more depth later.

Business Development

If you’re ambitious, and want your pub to be a roaring success, you must also consider marketing and business development. This includes a wide range of activities, from social media activity, to establishing your individual business growth indicators.

When you open a pub with Greene King, you’ll be provided with your very own Business Development Manager, who will help you every step of the way.

Becoming a Pub Landlord: What’s required?

If you want to become a Pub Landlord, you’ll need to consider whether you meet the requirements for the role and, if you don’t, understand what you can do about it.

The good news is that we place emphasis on the skills and commitment required, rather than academic qualifications and experience. Of course, if you already have experience in working or running a pub, it will help you immeasurably. However, it’s not a mandatory requirement.

What’s more important is your determination to succeed. Are you willing to put in the hours required to run a successful pub? The days can be long, especially if you’re open early to serve breakfast, and you need to be available at all times in case there’s a problem. Of course, you don’t need to be present 24/7, but many Pub Landlords like to take a hands-on approach to running their pub, so it’s likely you’ll spend a lot of time there.

Are you a sociable person? You’ll need to be friendly and welcoming, even when you’re exhausted after working a long day in the pub. You must be approachable, and able to deal with complaints in a professional and welcoming manner. The most successful landlords get involved with the local community, making connections and creating friendships that will benefit their business.

You should be enthusiastic about the pub trade; you’ll need to immerse yourself in the culture and industry too if you want to succeed. You’ll also need some business awareness, even if you don’t have any experience in running a business.

Most importantly, you must be willing to accept the challenge of running a successful pub, compelled by the endless possibilities this presents. Our Business Development Managers can help set targets and develop plans for your business, but ultimately the success depends on your commitment to achieving results.

We work with enthusiastic individuals from all walks of life, so if you think you’ve got what it takes, we’ll always encourage you to come and talk to us.

Pub Landlord Training

Before you open a pub, you’ll need to successfully apply for a personal license, and complete some mandatory training. We’re committed to helping our landlords get the most from their business, and the mandatory training will provide you with the best possible start. Consequently, you’ll need to complete the following courses:

  • Level 2 Award for Personal License Holders to Obtain a Personal License (APLH, or the Scottish alternative if you wish to open a pub in Scotland).
  • Pre-Entry Awareness Training (PEAT), which is provided by the British Institute of Inn-Keeping.
  • Safe Start Online Training, which is required to ensure you understand your responsibilities as one of Greene King’s landlords.

We also suggest a number of optional courses, which will help you create a highly successful business. These include:

  • Go for Growth: a course to help you plan effectively, ensuring the success of your business.
  • A finance course to provide you with the information required to help you manage the costs and profitability of your pub.
  • A course in retail excellence, focusing ways to ensure high quality customer service.
  • Cellar Management training, providing you with everything you need to know to ensure the quality of our award-winning beers.

What Are the Financial Implications of Running a Pub?

Before opening a pub, you must consider the financial implications, both for the start of your journey, and on an on-going basis. How much money do you need to open a pub? Are there any ways to ease the financial burden?

When you decide to run a pub with Greene King, you benefit from an excellent choice of rental agreements. These enable you to reduce the up front cost of opening a pub, as you don’t have to buy the building itself, but rent it from us. Here are some important things to think about as you make your decision:

Our Agreements

We offer a range of agreements with terms that depend on the commitment you want to make. Some agreements give you flexibility so you can run things how you wish, others have set Operational Procedures and extra levels of support. 

Our agreements provide differing opportunities, which we can discuss with you in more detail when you get in touch or meet with one of our Business Development Managers. Alternatively, come along to one of our recruitment open days held at our brewery, and experience first-hand our award-winning brewery and passion for pubs.  

Our standard tenancy agreement

  • A fixed 5 year term agreement which is contracted out of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954
  • Tie variations available
  • Rent set at the start of the agreement, subject to the annual Retail Prices Index (RPI) which is capped
  • Flexible pricing options available
  • You will not be required to purchase or rent gaming machines, we can support you with expert machines, advice and supply if you wish. Ask us for more details
  • Greene King is responsible for the structure of the building
  • Ability to end agreement with 6 months notice at any time with standard notice fee equal to 3 months rent

Our standard lease agreement

  • A 10 to 25 year agreement with lessee responsibility of fully repairing and insuring
  • Fully protected under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 with right of renewal
  • Tie variations available
  • 5 yearly open market rent review, subject to the annual Retail Prices Index (RPI) which is capped
  • Flexible discounts and pricing available
  • You will not be required to purchase or rent gaming machines, we can support you with expert machines, advice and supply if you wish. Ask us for more details
  • Ability to sell (known as ‘assign’) the agreement after 2 years

Other agreements

We regularly review our agreements and continually seek to innovate, therefore whilst our standard tenancy and lease are our principle agreements, we do have other agreements available, subject to the pub, style of business and operator.

Other agreements include our Local Hero agreement, an innovative agreement that’s all about supporting local provenance in food and drink and our Meet & Eat business format franchise agreement, which provides a tried-and-tested template to operating a pub business.

On-going Financial Implications

You must also consider the on-going financial implications of running your own pub. In order to fully understand them, a thorough business plan is essential. Our Business Planning page contains a variety of tools to assist with this important task. You need to fully understand your costs, and ensure you build sufficient margins into your products to make a profit at the end of it.

In order to understand what it will take to run a profitable business, you need to fully understand your costs. This includes:

  • Raw products (e.g. the food and drink you’ll be selling to your customers),
  • Utilities (e.g. gas and electricity)
  • Marketing and advertising costs,
  • Staff, including any contractors (e.g. cleaners),
  • Business costs (e.g. accountant and solicitor),
  • Training, for yourself and your staff,
  • Insurance,
  • Equipment,
  • Entertainment.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and will be determined by your own intentions for the business. Do you want to establish your pub as a leading venue for live music? If so, you’ll need to consider the cost of hiring bands, the required equipment, and any additional entertainment licenses required.

Once you fully understand the costs, you should use the profit margin calculators and templates to work out how much you will charge your customers, and predict your turnover and profit.

It’s really important to understand the implications before you begin, to ensure you get off to a good start. For more information on the financial implications of running your own pub, refer to our Cost Considerations page.

Why Should I Choose to Run a Pub with Greene King?

Greene King is one of the leading names on the UK pub scene. We’ve retained our position at the forefront of the industry due to our passion and dedication to succeed.

We’re committed to two things:

  1. Brewing fantastic, award-winning ales, such as Greene King IPA and Speckled Hen. We’ve been doing it for over 200 years so, when it comes to good beer, we really know what we’re talking about.
  2. Helping people who share our passion for the industry get started on their journey, opening remarkable pubs across the UK, to be enjoyed by the Great British public.

Our position in the industry, as experienced brewers as well as a pub chain, provides us with a unique opportunity to offer superior knowledge and support throughout your journey as a Greene King licensee. In addition to our insights into what makes a good beer, and access to our products at discounted rates, you’ll also receive excellent business support.

We’ll also provide you with a dedicated Business Development Manager (BDM), who will act as your personal business consultant, helping you maximise your return on investment, and build a highly successful business.

We’re extremely proud of our achievements, and believe we offer the very best solution for those who dream of running a successful pub. However, don’t just take our word for it! Make sure you head over to our testimonials page to find out exactly what our licensees think.

Are you ready to start making your dream of running a pub a reality? Get in touch today to get started! Simply apply via the website, or give us a call on 01284 843200.

If you’d like some more information before you send an application, why not attend one of our open days to speak to an advisor in person? Or download our Running a Pub Information Guide'.

It’s easy to apply – use our online application form or just give us a call on 01284 843200. Even if you haven’t found a pub, tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll let you know when the right business is available.