How running a pub is a great opportunity for a budding chef

Keen on food? Trained as a chef?  Have you considered running a pub?  These activities go very well together and provide a fantastic career challenge.

If you have discounted getting into the pub trade because you don't think you can afford it, or you're not sure how feasible it is to run a business and a kitchen at the same time: think again! Many chefs are using pub tenancies as a great way to get the autonomy they desire, and it can be a really affordable way to get your own kitchen / restaurant.

How exciting would it be to have the freedom to cook the food your love, build your reputation and become a food destination in your local area? 

Running a pub can be a great way of developing your career as a chef. It offers the opportunity to develop your skills while gaining the satisfaction of having your own business.  Many chefs working in the hotel or restaurant business choose to become pub landlords. As they are already familiar with the hospitality industry, they find it is an easy transition into running a pub.

If you're ready to take the first step to turning your dream of establishing your reputation for great food and running a successful business, give us a call on 01284 843 200.

Food and pubs are a winning combination. The vast majority of pubs have a food offering of some kind. A lot of consumers go to a pub looking for a simple bar meal or a casual evening out where they can dine and enjoy high quality food. Pubs have always been a great location for people wanting to eat out, including the business market. They serve as a great location where people can meet for business lunches without too much formality or to enjoy local meet up events focusing on breakfast or lunch. There are lots of opportunities and markets a good food pub can serve.

Consumer Demand

According to researchers at Mintel Intelligence’s Report on Pub Visiting 2015, 54% of consumers regard high quality food as a key reason for increasing the number of visits they make to the pub, with provision of special offers on food and drink popular with 34% of consumers. Mintel are one of the leading research organizations in the UK and say that food led pubs are expected to continue performing strongly in the coming years.

There is a huge variety of food offerings across the pub industry.  The same town can have gourmet pubs, gastro pubs, casual dining pubs, restaurant pubs, or local pubs with a simple bar menu.  Some chefs deliver high end, award-winning dishes attracting local and regional attention; while others focus on well-cooked traditional pub food.  The scope for developing the food offer in any pub is tremendous – it all depends on the style of food that interests a chef. It offers the opportunity for chefs to be creative, improve culinary skills, personal food interests and get a kitchen of their own.  There is an incredible wealth of culinary talent operating within pubs that, once upon a time, might only have been found in restaurants in major cities.

The role of gastro and gourmet pubs is becoming increasingly popular.  Food is the main reason for their existence. They are almost mini restaurants but have a much more relaxed approach to dining which attracts a wider audience.

Pub food is always designed to offer value for money. The use of local food, even herbs or vegetables grown in the pub garden, is an extra attraction for customers.

Chef Skills

Chefs working in a pub environment have a lot of scope for demonstrating their skills. They can decide on menus, control food buying and the type of meals they want to offer.  It could be just provision of evening or lunchtime meals if that suits the type of consumers being attracted to the pub.  Some pub kitchens open early to provide breakfast, especially if they are situated on a main road or offer accommodation. 

Admittedly, it can be a long day for chefs, although that goes with the territory. It will require some flexibility and willingness to train employees to share the workload.  Although a chef will not be needed 24/7, a chef who is also a pub landlord will need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen supporting and helping staff as well as running the business. 

Running a pub and its food offer can enable a chef to build up a sizable reputation.  Pubs with a successful food offering can find themselves appearing in local directories, and being recommended on Internet sites such as TripAdvisor.  Consumers do use these sites as a way of finding out information about pubs and places to eat. Good recommendations will lead to a decision to visit that pub and try the food. 

Hand & Flowers: Tom Kerridge

It can lead to some amazing results. Tom Kerridge, owner of the Hand & Flowers Greene King pub in Oxfordshire has developed a high profile reputation as a result of his work in the pub. It has four AA rosettes and has also achieved two Michelin stars. Kerridge states, “we were the first pub in the world to achieve such status.  It is a huge team effort.” 

The Hand & Flowers is not a formal restaurant.  It is place where diners can turn up in trainers and jeans, and still have a great meal with high quality food. As Kerridge points out “it is open to anyone.You don’t have to spend lots of money on wine.You can have a beer and relax over a meal. That is important to me.”

Typical dishes on offer in the pub include slow cooked duck breast, mushroom & tarragon soup with hazelnut ‘aigre-doux’ and tarragon oil; smoked brisket of beef with English mustard mash and beer pickled onion; and the Hand & Flowers warm gala pie with ‘Matson’ spiced sauce..  The food style is strong and bold, with an emphasis on simplicity. The service is always professional but approachable. People unused to restaurant dining can feel comfortable here, relaxed and able to enjoy the meal.

Being a chef as well as a pub landlord will undoubtedly prove challenging. It is not just a matter of preparing food to a high standard, but of training and managing staff within the kitchen and the pub itself. You have got to be flexible and versatile, willing to expand management and business skills. As a business owner and a chef, running a pub can be an extremely valuable and satisfying experience utilising all your skills and knowledge.

If this sounds like a great opportunity to you, why not get in touch with our team to discuss it in more detail? We are happy to chat through your options and explore whether taking on a pub is a viable idea and will help you achieve your goals.