Local pubs are innovating to survive and thrive

If you’re thinking of running a pub, those doom and gloom headlines reporting on the demise of the British pub may give you cause for concern. But would it surprise you to know that more pubs are now opening than closing? So how are these landlords bucking the alleged ‘death of the pub’ trend?

Our experience at Greene King is that those pubs who survive and thrive are the ones who treat running a pub as a business. That doesn’t mean to say that our landlords don a suit every morning, but they do use everything at their disposal to run a success business.

Thriving Pubs Are Entrepreneurial

As for those pubs that are opening with new landlords, these publicans are entrepreneurial who come to the pub business with new ideas and lots of ‘get up and go’. With the support of a brewery or pub company the right people have every chance of success and making a profitable business.

Here are Pub Partners recruitment team, Bob and Dick, discuss the factors that can make all the difference between a successful pub and another ‘death of the pub’ headline.

Change is the key

Pubs that change are pubs that thrive. ‘The success of a pub is down to the people that run it,’ say Bob Luke and Dick Cobb, pub partner recruitment managers for Greene King. ‘A lot of pubs didn’t survive the smoking ban,’ says Bob. ‘They lost the lunch-time crowd who came in from offices for a smoke, and who then returned for a pint after work in the evening. Those pubs have now gone. They’ve been replaced by family-friendly pubs, pubs with an emphasis on food or pubs with comfortable, well-equipped bedrooms.’

Success starts at the front door

‘You send a message out from the front of the pub,’ says Dick. ‘Flowers, plants, professional signage, and a clear message on what you have to offer – you’ve got 20-30 seconds to engage people. Once they’ve engaged, they’re much more prepared to wait.’

A good pub is about people

If you want to be a successful pub landlord, you need to look after people. ‘Go into the bar. Look after the rooms. Know what’s happening with the food,’ says Bob.

You need a ‘food offer’.

Dick and Bob both emphasise that you don’t need to be a gastro-pub, but you do need to serve good food. Whether that’s a superb sausage, chips and beans, locally-sourced dishes or fine dining, your food has to be able to compete with all the other food available in the neighbourhood. ‘You don’t necessarily need a chef,’ says Dick. ‘But you do need a good cook.’ Greene King also run a pub food offer franchise called ‘Meat and Eat’ for publicans who don’t want to manage their own food.

Standards at home have risen

That means that standards in pubs have to rise, too. Today’s successful pubs have all the comfort you would get in a home. ‘Expectations are higher now,’ says Dick. ‘People now live in nicely decorated homes and expect those standards in a pub. They sleep in more comfortable beds, so if you have pub bedrooms, you have to make sure the beds are good. An en-suite bath or shower room is an absolute requirement these days.’

Why do some pubs fail?

‘It starts with first impressions,’’ says Bob. ‘Litter in the car park, and discarded cigarette ends around the front door will put people off even coming in to find out what you have to offer.’

Staff training and service is important, too. ‘People need to be acknowledged when they first come in,’ says Bob. ‘Train staff to catch their eye of someone coming in – then people will wait.’

‘Never dumb down just because you’re serving beer,’ advises Dick. ‘Success is about the food, the drinks, the décor and the rooms. Even serving wine in better glasses improves your customer’s experience – I know one landlord who has started serving the same amount of the same wine in large luxurious goblets. It looks likes better wine. People love it.’

‘People expect clean, smart toilets even in the community boozer these days,’ warns Bob. ‘If they don’t get it, they’ll complain on public forums like Trip Advisor. Then you and your staff start to lose confidence. Engaging with the public is much more complex these days.’

The honeymoon period

‘When a new publican moves in, everyone is curious for about the first six months to a year,’ says Dick. ‘They’ll come and check you out. You need to get your food and staff sorted out within that time, because if the pub doesn’t work in the first year, people won’t come back.’ If you’ve got the support of a brewery like Greene King, you’ll have experienced people behind you to sort out any problems.

Do you need to work round the clock to be successful?

‘No,’ say Dick and Bob. ‘If you do a good job, you don’t have to be open all hours. Being successful is about listening to people and finding out what they want.’ It’s hard work, but it’s satisfying – and when you get time off, you’re already at home. There’s no commute home!

So could you run one of today’s successful pubs?

If you think running a pub is for you, come and talk to Dick and Bob to find out whether you could make a lifestyle change.

We would love to discuss your plans with you and offer any advice.