How to recruit and train the right staff for a successful pub?

You’ve found a pub, created a business plan, learned the basics, and got the keys – now you have to consider staffing.  Staff can help make or break a pub.  If staff provide poor service, are surly and unresponsive to customers, then customers will simply go elsewhere.  Friendly, helpful staff help give a great guest experience. Result – customers return time and time again.

Recruiting and training staff is a priority for any landlord. So what should you look for when you are seeking new staff? Not everyone is cut out for working behind a bar, or serving in a pub restaurant. Although this kind of work is often seen as being easy, casual labour, something to do while studying or in between jobs, you still need great staff if you want to run a successful pub business.

Therefore when recruiting staff, there are key qualities and attributes you should be looking for. These are:

  • Good Communicators

Look for staff who can get on with people of all kinds. They need to be good communicators, chatting with people of different ages and take part in conversations.  An ability to listen is equally important.  Customers like to talk! Confidence is another essential requirement. Staff have to be able to deal with customers in sensitive situations such as asking for evidence of age, or when customers have had too much to drink.

  • Keen to learn

Being keen to learn is a key attribute. It is not just a matter of providing service, but being able to answer questions about different drinks, alternative beers or discuss the food on the menu.  A willingness to learn about premium drinks and the food offering will ultimately benefit sales.

  • Sales people

Remember that your staff are not just serving but they are actually selling. So you need to look for people who are good at selling. These are people who will talk confidently about food and drink, who will be prepared to upsell by suggesting a dessert with a meal or snacks with a beer. Most of all they are selling an experience; a great night out, a leisurely lunch, or a friendly community hub. This is what customers will come back for.

  • Team Players  

Look for staff who will fit into your team, and work well together. Good relationships between various members of staff will make for a better working atmosphere, especially when the pub is really busy and you are all working under pressure.

  • General skills

Staff will need to be numerate, able to add up and spot any mistakes with totals, as well as handling money. Good memories are essential for remembering a long order at the bar, and when it comes to serving regulars with their favourite drinks.

  • Specific skills 

You need to make sure that staff have the appropriate skills if they have specific responsibilities. Someone who is being hired as a chef needs to have the right experience to deliver the kind of food your pub offers, and cope with the number of covers you do. A deputy pub manager should have some experience running a pub, while a Front of House Manager in the restaurant should have relevant experience.

Training Your Pub Staff

Of course not all staff will have previous experience working in pubs, especially if you’re recruiting students and young adults who are just entering the job market.

Ongoing training is essential. Greene King training schemes are designed to help staff become the best they possibly can.  We host and manage award winning courses all year round, both in pubs and online. There are even a number of free quick courses that are designed to work from a smartphone or tablet.  As the pub landlord, you need to work out just what is needed for you and your team.  Our team will happily advise and make recommendations, that’s what we’re here for!

Typical courses include induction training, customer care, complaint handling, legislation, sales skills, manual handling, food preparation, kitchen standards, front of house, cellar management, office management, health and safety, hotels/rooms. There are also leadership and management courses designed to enable your staff to progress and develop their skills.

“I found the training really engaging. They helped the team look at things from the customer’s point of view. Our mystery visit score improved from 75% to 100% as a result,” commented Rhonda McCutcheon, Manager of the Royal Oak in Woodford Green.


Apprenticeships are increasingly playing a major role in the Greene King pub network. Greene King has pledged to take on 10,000 apprentices over the next three years. There are ten different apprenticeships covering all types of roles such as front of house, bar staff and kitchen staff. These are available at all levels from beginners to advanced standards, for example food and beverage service level 2, professional cookery level 3, to leadership and management at level 4. 

Greene King’s Lifetime training ensures that the apprentices receive all the training that they require at every stage.

Taking on an apprentice means that you are getting really enthusiastic, keen staff members. They are committed to learning and building a career.  Gabrielle Green, the 18 year old apprentice chef at The Ship in Bedford is a typical apprentice. She says “I didn’t want to be stuck in a classroom all the time and now I get the chance to learn while being paid at the same time. I can see myself growing as a person and would recommend to anybody wanting to learn on the job to look into becoming an apprentice.”

Also at the Ship is Isabelle Pearson. She started behind a bar, and quickly knew that this was the career for her. Three years training with Greene King resulted in becoming the house manager at The Ship. She says, “I thought it would be a stop gap, but very quickly realised that I wanted to run my own pub. I felt that taking an apprenticeship would help me achieve that goal.”

Over at The Four Horseshoes Thornham, in Suffolk becoming an apprenticeship eventually resulted in taking over the lease of the pub. Landlord Thomas opted for an apprenticeship in hospitality rather than going to university, and chose to work at the Four Horseshoes.  Soon after completing his training, he discovered the pub’s lease had become vacant. He says, “ I jumped at the chance. I knew the pub well and I was confident that I could run it.  When I took on the lease I was only 19 years old and the youngest licensee in Britain at the time.”

The sky is clearly the limit for Greene King pub staff.  Choosing your staff wisely, and providing the best training will definitely benefit everyone.