Why running a pub is a great business opportunity

Do you want to start your own business? If so, have you thought about running a pub? Or have you dismissed it as a pipe dream? If so, it might surprise you to know that running today’s pubs is a contemporary lifestyle choice. It has lots to offer entrepreneurs, families, chefs and those who want a major life change.

In this post we explore some of the pros and cons of running a pub business, the opportunities it presents for the right people, insights from the Greene King Pub Partners recruitment team on this business opportunity, and what it’s like to run a pub. If you have any questions about running a pub that are not answered here, please get in touch with our team or browse this website for more information.

Running A Pub: Pros and Cons

‘Running a pub is a great starting point about if you want your own business,’ says Bob Luke, Pub Partners recruitment manager for Greene King Brewery. ‘That’s because you don’t need a huge investment. In fact, financially, it offers one of the lowest entry points available to setting up on your own – and you’ve got the support from the brewery if you need it.’

That is, of course, if you take on the tenancy of a pub from a brewery rather than buying it outright. Buying the freehold of a pub could cost you about half a million pounds. Taking on a tenancy could cost you around one tenth of that. But you’ll still be your own boss.

You can use your skills…

Today’s pubs can showcase your skills – if you’re a young chef wanting your own restaurant, the low initial costs of taking over the lease of a pub mean you could start your own place now and without taking on huge debt. Good food is now a major reason why people go to pubs and many award-winning restaurants are now in pubs.

…or develop a brand

But you don’t have to major on food. When you take over a pub, you can take many different directions. Is it your ambition to have a chain of mini boutique hotels? Look at pub leases with bedrooms. Do you want to create your own food, drink or lifestyle product? What about the ‘Kings Arms elderflower cordial’ or the ‘White Horse Cocktail special’? You may only ever serve it in your pub, you may take on other pubs to expand the brand – or even take your elderflower cordial or special burger recipe beyond the pub altogether one day.

Be part of the community…

 ‘Local’ is one of today’s big buzzwords, and pubs have a major role in most communities. You have two choices – find the community you want to be part of, or create a community yourself. ‘People choose their own communities these days,’ says Dick Cobb, also a Greene King pub partners recruitment manager. ‘They may drive miles to go to a particular pub, because it serves the food and drink they like, or the atmosphere is right for them.

…or even a local hero

For example, Greene King Breweries have a ‘Local Heroes’ pub lease where, as well as stocking Greene King beers, you can also brew your own. You serve food made with locally sourced ingredients and use generally tap into today’s desire for authenticity and products that have not been transported all over the world.

Some pubs are at the heart of their village or town, and take on extra roles, such as Post Office, local shop or even art gallery, hanging local artists on their walls. Others are ‘destination’ pubs, which attract people for a particular reason, such as the food, bird-watching or walking.

You can develop your interests

That’s why running a pub can work well with your own interests. If you enjoy sport, you can support local sports clubs and have sports evenings. Or perhaps folk music is your passion? Music and pubs are a natural fit. For the competitive, running quiz nights, ‘races evenings’ or murder mystery nights offer a chance to attract custom on what would otherwise be quiet night.

But what about the hard work?

‘It’s hard work running a pub,’ confirms Bob. ‘But the day you find it hard work is the day you need to quit,’ adds Dick. Running your own business is always going to be harder work than being employed because the buck stops with you. If a supplier doesn’t deliver or a member of staff goes ill, you’re the one to sort it out.

Or the long hours?

Dick looks thoughtful. ‘I reckon that most people who are theoretically working 9-5 have much less free time than they think they have. They may have to get up at 7am to commute and not be back till 7pm or later. I know that I saw much more of my daughter growing up than most of my contemporaries did their children because I was around when she came back from school. Most pubs in England and Wales have accommodation, so you don’t have to worry about commuting. But, yes, the hours are long.’

Surely pubs everywhere are closing?

‘Everyone knows about all the recent pub closures,’ says Bob. ‘But we’ve been through the disposal process. The smoking ban affected pubs badly, but those that couldn’t survive have gone now. And the ones that are left have benefited. Smoke-free pubs have opened up opportunities for pubs to be more family-orientated and more focussed on food. I think that more pubs are opening rather than closing now.’

So how do I find out more?

Greene King hold open days for anyone wanting to explore whether a pub business is for them, check out when and where the next ones are on our recruitment events page here. Or you can contact us directly for more information about running a pub with Greene King.