Is it time to leave managed house and become a pub operator?

Ever thought about running your own pub rather than managing a pub for someone else?  If you have lots of ideas and nowhere to take them, or if you feel that your work as a pub manager is not providing enough challenges, it could be the ideal time for you to become a pub operator in your own right.

Tracey Parmee who is now a multi-site pub operator with Greene King was in a similar position 12 years ago. Having worked in managed house for many years she says, “It got to the point where I couldn’t really do anymore where I was. I thought ‘if I can do it for someone else, I should be able to do if for myself.’”

Sound familiar? Read on if you’re interested in leaving managed house and taking on a pub tenancy or lease.

The Benefits of Becoming A Pub Operator

Running your own business means that you can follow your ideas and put them into practice.  A well-chosen pub, run by someone who really knows the business and can bring their experience in managed house to the table, can be extremely profitable. As a pub operator you have the freedom to expand and develop your pub as you want, put into practice those ideas you haven’t been able to act on as a pub manager and take control of your own future.

With your extensive experience in the pub trade, working for yourself can be very rewarding. You can tailor the business to suit your own interests, perhaps adding a microbrewery, a restaurant, gin distillery or even running a boutique hotel from your pub. Just take a look at some of the case studies of people who have made the jump into pub operation, they show just how versatile the opportunities can be.

The ideas and the effort you put into the business are reflected on your income and long term success. Yes, there are risks in setting up your own business, but then there are risks with everything that you do. The concept of a job for life no longer exists. Taking the plunge and working for yourself can offer much more long term security as you take responsibility for your own success.

Why Are Pub Managers Ideal Pub Operators?

Pub managers are ideally suited to becoming pub operators – after all, you already have the necessary skills! Gill Nicholls moved from being manager of a Chef & Brewer in Masham to taking on a pub of her own, the Bay Horse. She comments, “Having worked in a managed pub I could appreciate what I needed to do to create a point of difference for the business.  I think it really all comes down to how you treat customers. Running things for myself means that I have a personal commitment – I’m not just ticking boxes and saying the right thing, which I did before. Now the customers are MY customers. That makes a big difference to how I feel and I think people appreciate it.”

Any risks inherent in running a business are minimised when a pub or bar manager moves to operate a pub of their own. You already have all the relevant experience and skills. You know exactly what running a pub entails.

Just think of all the responsibilities you already undertake as a manager:

  • Dealing with deliveries, undertaking stock checks, ordering as necessary

  • Maintaining the condition of the drinks on offer

  • Overseeing the kitchen

  • Serving customers and dealing with their needs

  • Organising events and activities

  • Promoting and marketing the business

  • Recruiting and training staff

  • Enforcing legislation such as health & safety, licensing, and accepting legal responsibility for the premises

  • Dealing with budgets, managing cashflow and finding ways to increase profits

The only difference between a pub manager and a pub operator is that the latter is self-employed and owns the business. Therefore you get to decide how much money you take from the business and how profits are spent or reinvested to generate more revenue.

Planning Your Pub Business

While you’re looking for a pub tenancy or lease you can start planning your own pub business and filling any gaps you have in your experience and skills. There may be opportunities to get experience in specific types of pubs such as gastro pubs, family pubs or music pubs. You may also be able to increase your skills set in operational areas by taking advantage of any training that’s on offer.

Many of the training schemes offered by your pub company will be beneficial to your ultimate aim of being your own boss.  It may be that you need extra training in marketing, budgeting or catering. Or may be you want to obtain specialist knowledge of a specific type of drink such as gin, whisky or cider? This is the ideal time to obtain that training as you can practise the newly learned skills and knowledge in your existing job, while looking for the pub of your dreams.

As a pub manager you’ll also have a finger on the pulse of all new developments and trends in the industry – this gives you a head start when it comes to looking at ways to increase profits in your own business.  It may even be possible to use your existing pub as a test bed for new ideas. Those ideas that prove successful you can take with you and know they will make an immediate impact within your new venture.

Finding A Pub

Location, location, location – estate agents always say this is crucial when it comes to choosing a home. It is equally important when choosing a pub business. As a manager, you are in the perfect position to find out about upcoming tenancies within your chosen area and decide if they meet your requirements.

Depending on your current employer, it may be a good time to let them know that you want your own pub. Talking to your PubCo’s Business Development Manager will highlight any extra skills you need, and the level of financial investment you will need. Knowing of your interest, the BDM’s will be able to alert you to potential pubs.

Want To Become A Pub Operator?

Here are 5 things to do today to get started:

  1. Talk to your PubCo to get advice and see whether they can help you find a tenancy or lease.

  2. Register your interest with other PubCos and breweries. Registering doesn’t commit you to anything, but does ensure you get up to date information on available pubs on a regular basis and an opportunity to discuss your plans and take advantage of any support they can offer.

  3. Take advantage of any training that may be available. Consider the skills you will need to run your own pub as well as the skills that will help you be more successful in your current position.

  4. Explore the financial considerations. The capital you’ll need to get a pub tenancy will vary depending on factors such as location, type of pub and the agreement offered with the pub. Make sure you’re aware of these costs and what your budget is, have a look at the pubs available with Greene King to get an idea of what’s on offer. 

  5. Sign up for our ‘research’ email series. We’ll send you a series of emails with useful information and advice for researching and planning your pub business. Click here to sign up.

Leaving your job as a pub manager to start your own business is logical step for many people. If you’re thinking that this might be the right thing for you, now’s the time to do your research and start planning your pub business.