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The dream of running your own pub almost certainly focuses heavily on a traditional country local with wooden beams, stone floors and a garden...

The dream of running your own pub almost certainly focuses heavily on a traditional country local with wooden beams, stone floors and a garden bursting with colour. The reality, particularly at entry-level for someone taking on their first tenancy, lease, or freehold, is more likely to involve a suburban back street local with shredded carpets, peeling wallpaper and a potholed patch of concrete with barely enough room to park a bike. Refurbishing a pub almost always requires a compromise, whether through budgetary restraints, planning restrictions, or in the case of a tied pub, how much the owner is willing to invest. Nevertheless, simply making a few improvements in order to provide a pleasant, clean environment is likely to pay dividends in terms of encouraging more customers who are willing to stay longer and spend more.

Whose responsibility?Whether for essential repairs or desired improvements, refurbishment is an area which leads to more conflict and bad feeling than almost any other area of the tied trade. Anyone living and working in a pub with shabby décor or a draughty saloon bar is likely to have a different idea of what constitutes an essential repair to the property manager of a pub company trying to keep to a planned maintenance schedule.Broadly speaking, in a tenancy day-to-day repairs are likely to be the responsibility of the tenant and any major works should be carried out be the owners. A lessee is likely to have greater responsibility for repairs and refurbishment, both inside and out.However, all agreements are different and it is essential to read the terms closely and take proper legal advice where necessary.

Benefits of good designThe pub industry today has a much clearer idea of how and why design can either help or hinder a pub's performance, thanks to high levels of investment and research by both pub operators and drink brand owners. While a lone pub operators is not going to have access to the same design support as a major company such as JD Wetherspoon or UDV, it is possible to apply some the same principles. Connor Kenny, a director of McNally Design, which has created pub designs for operators including Yates Group and Chorion, believes there are some basics which apply almost universally when considering the design of a pub:•Understand your location•Know your target customer and know your competitor•Define your offer to suit the above•Create points of difference using elements such as food, drink, and music•Maximise daytime trading•Stay ahead of trends and influences•Work on continually recruiting new customers - your existing customer base will inevitably decline and you need to replace lost customers•Keep up to date with design and leisure trends at home and abroad•Constantly reinvest in the business•A book is judged by its cover - be aware of the exterior of the pubKenny said: “You need to create an interior which reflects all these points, and seek professional advice where possible.”

Kitchens Food and pubs have been partners since the inn was invented a thousand years or more ago. The problem facing many licensees hoping to take advantage of the boom in pub food is that many kitchens in traditional pubs - if they have one at all - were not designed with either the needs of a modern catering operation or the demands of current hygiene and health and safety legislation in mind.Whether you're starting from scratch and building or converting a new kitchen area, or trying to bring an existing kitchen up to date, professional advice is essential. Your local authority will advise on planning or health and safety aspects, but having someone who understands these issues on your side before presenting your plans to the authority can save a great deal of time. Terry Ashmore, product development manager at kitchen equipment specialist Hobart Manufacturing Co offers this advice:•Consider whether the purpose of your kitchen has altered since it was originally designed. Do you have a different menu offering or has the style of the restaurant significantly changed?•Are you looking for flexibility from your new kitchen area? If you may be changing your menu or style in the future the new design will need to offer total flexibility.•In terms of design, you should always engage the services of a good consultant who is well versed in all areas of kitchen planning, including gaining planning approvals, change of use, environmental issues, HACCP, health and fire regulations.•Consider the physical restraints of the new kitchen and the services that will be required. Do the existing services match the new requirements?•Define the total requirement of your refurbishment. Will your new kitchen give you more space in the service area, or will it require you to reduce the number of covers?•Clearly define your budget restraints and set these down at the outset. However, reusing old equipment, or mixing and matching new and old can be a false economy. Does the old equipment meet current CE regulations and will it be compatible with the newly installed services? Problems often occur when old equipment is moved, resulting in additional expense on service bills. If you can, it's best to refurbish with new equipment.•Consider how or if you are going to continue trading during refurbishment. Do you need a temporary kitchen and can you cover the expense? Can you work from a reduced kitchen and will this have an impact on your menu offering and customer base?•Finally, consider your neighbours, consult with them and keep them in the picture, particularly if you're having building work done, it's always best to have them on your side.

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