Retail managers make fantastic pub operators... Here's why

If you have experience in the retail industry, such as selling clothes or food or indeed another type of merchandise, then the likelihood is you can sell alcohol. The skills obtained from working in retail are invaluable when it comes running a pub. In fact, the sheer number of transferable skills common to retailers and pub operators are so great, that those with this type of experience have a huge advantage when moving to a pub tenancy business.

If you think about it, pubs are technically retail outlets. The hours and the service may differ, but the skills involved in retail management are very similar. A good retail manager needs to wear many hats, without compromising any part of their role. They are capable of running a profitable and efficient store / venue, executing customer care, managing stock control, understanding profit margins and financial control, recruitment, leadership and management skills. These are all equally relevant when running a pub.

Customer service and sales

Publicans, like retail managers, cannot afford to be known for offering bad customer service. Working in a pub means that you and your staff are dealing with members of the public every day, just like someone accustomed to managing a retail outlet. Pubs thrive on repeat custom. If customers are unhappy, they will not return and will happily share their negative experience with their family and friends – either verbally or via social media.

A decent retail manager knows the importance of good customer service and how to create it by providing the products and experience customers want to make them return time and time again. They will know how to approach and engage in conversations with customers as well as identify an opportunity to upsell. In a pub environment, this is extremely important. Encouraging customers to have a dessert or coffee at the end of a meal, to purchase a bottle of wine instead of two glasses, to return for a regular quiz night or to book a private room for a party, is all part of increasing customer spend and the role of a pub operator.

The way a retail manager communicates is equally as invaluable when liaising with local authorities, suppliers and the local community. The ability to establish good relationships and communicate key messages effectively is crucial to the success of running a pub.

Management skills

Part of being a retail manager is supervising staff, monitoring their workloads and undertaking the administration involved in looking after them, such as health and safety, work records and payroll. Every successful retail manager will know how to motivate their team(s), successfully introduce new work practices and recruit the right people and let those go who are not right for their business when necessary.

Many of the qualifications needed by retailers are equally valuable when it comes to running a pub. The training and knowledge gained from management qualifications is an obvious asset, as are any experience / qualifications in managing and training staff. Anyone who has been involved in the retail of beer or wine will be fully conversant with licensing issues and will have undergone basic training. Similarly, any manager involved in selling food, whether it is a high street store, street food or a fast food outlet, will understand health and safety requirements when preparing and serving food.

Behind the scenes, a retail manager will also have gained plenty of admin experience in the back office. It is part and parcel of normal business life. Applying for a pub tenancy vacancy and running a pub business is no different. Just like operating a store, pub operators are also responsible for maintaining sales records, stock control, recruitment, regulatory requirements and so on. The key difference is you will be doing this for yourself – taking on a pub tenancy or lease is about running your own business, rather than being a manager for a retail brand.

Entrepreneurial skills

Successful managers in retail need to have an entrepreneurial streak. Not only are they responsible for the day-to-day operation of their outlet, but they are accountable for maximising the opportunities in their location to attract and sell to customers. Promotional and marketing opportunities can arise unexpectedly or seasonally; for example, responding to a change in warmer weather by promoting ice-cold drinks in a heat wave or putting a supply of umbrellas at the front of the store when there is a downpour. A decent retail manager will always be aware of potential opportunities and will be looking for ways to improve the operation of their premises.

Pub operators are required to be equally entrepreneurial. After all, the pub is their business and its success will be reliant on the effort they put in.

Personal qualities

Those who have undergone retail training and been accustomed to managing a retail store will find that similar personal qualities are needed when running a pub. Whether you are communicating with customers, managing staff or dealing with suppliers, the business will revolve around people, so it is imperative as a pub operator that you are a people person- someone who always has a smile, is happy to help, not offended easily and can hold their own when challenged.

Good communication skills, leadership qualities, the ability to work solo and as part of a team and, of course, an outgoing and gregarious nature, are all essential personality traits.

Time for a change?

Ultimately, pubs are retail outlets. Having retail experience and skills is undeniably beneficial. Not surprisingly, increasing numbers of retail managers are turning to pubs as a way of establishing their own business. If you’ve been thinking about starting up your own business, we would highly recommend you look at whether a pub tenancy or lease model could offer you the opportunities you are seeking.

Why not have a browse at the pubs to let in your local area to see whether you can picture yourself there? Why not speak to the pub operator of your local pub to understand their experience?

Many of our pub partners who have come from a retail background are not only running one successful pub, based on their experience and skills, but have expanded and become multi-site operators. There is real scope for building an exciting and rewarding business, using those skills you have gained from working in retail.

If you would like to explore how to run a pub with Greene King, drop us a call or come along to one of events to meet our team to find out more about us and how we can help you find your own pub business opportunity.