The right choice

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People with all kinds of experience can find a pub to suit them and their skills.Anne Pirrie, the Ace, OldhamWhile some styles of pub suit the...

People with all kinds of experience can find a pub to suit them and their skills.

Anne Pirrie, the Ace, Oldham

While some styles of pub suit the thrusting youngster determined to carve out a management career, community locals often do best in more experienced hands.

Anne Pirrie took over the Ace in Oldham, Lancashire, two years ago with more than a quarter of a century of working behind bars under her belt.

Since then she has dealt with troublesome elements and built up trade and looks on the pub as her home for a long while to come.

"I was a bar worker in Scotland before moving down to Oldham on November 1, 1991," she said. "I was behind the bar of the Ace by November 2 - but I never thought I'd finish up managing it."

She spent seven years at the Dorbiere-owned pub and returned when regulars encouraged her to apply for the manager's job.

"Dorbiere has given me help and encouragement and put me through the National Certificate for Licensees," she said. "The finance side of running a pub was new to me but I got a lot of support in the first few weeks and it is quite simple really.

"When I first took over, the pub was doing nothing. There was a problem with drugs but I dealt with that!"

Anne has also put on lots of entertainment including Christmas parties for the local old folk.

"I hope I'll always be in the Ace," she said. "I know everybody here and I really don't know that I could manage another pub. It's like coming home."

Kieron O'Donnell, the Folly, Bristol

Kieron O'Donnell, manager of the Folly at Emersons Green, Bristol, and one of Wizard Inns' most experienced managers, was born into the licensed trade but on leaving school he opted for army life as his passport out of Burnley.

"I was in the army cadets when I was 11, joined the Queen's Lancashire Regiment just short of my 16th birthday and spent another nine years serving all over Europe," he said.

He got a grim reminder of the world he had entered when he started his first spell in Northern Ireland at 18 - his friend was killed on day one.

"Then I was in Germany for seven years and my next posting was due to be Blackpool. I had joined the army to see more of the world and I didn't fancy being stationed back in England. It was time for a change."

Keiron's parents had kept the White Walls in Burnley, Lancashire, for 25 years so pubs were an obvious choice for a change of career.

Following training he entered pub management 12 years ago as a relief manager with Bass and later joined Tom Cobleigh.

He arrived at Wizard four years ago, successfully running the Swan at Almondsbury, Gloucestershire, for 15 months before moving to the Folly which reopened after a £500,000 refurbishment in late 1999.

Today, Kieron combines his job as pub manager with the additional role of training manager - using his skills to help develop Wizard's managers of the future.

It means he works with a succession of assistant managers who benefit from the company's structured training programme and Kieron's experience.

"Staff can advance their skills through a succession of work books," he explained. "It's all about helping people to move onwards and upwards."

Once through the training, Wizard managers find a host of benefits waiting for them.

"If you hit your targets you get a bonus and that's a good incentive," said Kieron. "Your ideas will be listened to by senior management and nine times out of 10 they will implement them, which is a refreshing way of looking at things."

Best of all, managers have the freedom to manage, adds Kieron. "You run the pub as though it's your own business. In a branded outlet you are told what to do but at Wizard, while you get guidelines, you are free to manage.

"Promotions and staff incentives are in your own hands and it's you, as the manager, who comes up with the ideas to move the business forward. It's a terrific challenge, but very rewarding."

Anthony Hester, Slug & Lettuce, Nottingham

Faced with the horrifying prospect of a life in accountancy, Anthony Hester, manager of two Slug & Lettuce bars in Nottingham, is certainly pleased that he threw in a "proper" career to work in pubs.

He left university six years ago with a degree in accountancy and finance but he soon found he was "not enjoying accountancy".

"I wanted a bit of life so I started working part time at the Slug & Lettuce in Cheltenham," he said. "I was inspired by a fantastic manager there and within a year I was deputy."

He moved to the Slug in Worcester, where he took on more responsibility and started relief management at other pubs.

He followed that by getting a taste of the trade in London.

At this point he gained six months experience with a rival pubco, but went back to the SFI Group brand, "because I really do think it's the best in the market".

He has been in Nottingham for three years and now runs both the city's Slugs, constantly moving backwards and forwards between them. It's the kind of challenge he revels in.

"You don't get a lot of time to breathe but it's made easier because of the guys I work under," he said.

"You're not treated like a robot. They let me get on with it, try new ideas and be entrepreneurial, but the support is always there when I need it."

Anthony is pleased that his ideas usually work. He turned around the first Nottingham Slug from being £100,000 behind budget to hitting budget in only six months.

"I love it," he said. "There is so much happening and we are focused on people, making sure we look after everybody rather than just squeezing every last penny out of them.

"If you perform well, you get paid well. But in a funny way it doesn't seem like a serious business to me. When Slug managers get together for meetings we all seem to be enjoying ourselves.

"People used to tell me it's not a proper job but the ones I know who graduated with me aren't earning anything like the same money - and they're not having so much fun."

Liz Bourne, the Poste of Stone, Staffordshire

Growing numbers of young single women are making a career in the pub industry - but sometimes it takes pub customers a little while to get used to the idea.

Liz Bourne, at 24, had been managing a pub for nearly two years when she took over the Poste of Stone in Stone, Staffordshire. The locals couldn't believe she was the licensee though, she looked far too young.

"People used to come and say 'where's your husband?', but now they appreciate the hard work I've put in here and I'm accepted," she said.

Liz was waiting tables at a restaurant in Lichfield when J D Wetherspoon opened the Acorn Inn in the town. She applied for a job there and, at the age of 19, she got it and became one of what the company calls its bar associates.

She soon started to see that pubs could be the right career for her. "I enjoyed what I did and I was looked after," she said. "The pay and bonuses were good and so was the training but most of all I was being looked after by my managers. They had 100 per cent confidence in me and made me feel I could take the job just as far as I wanted."

Liz moved up through the ranks, becoming a bar supervisor and then shift manager. In that role her training was stepped up in preparation for her taking on the running of a pub and included the National Certificate for Licensees.

Eight months later that move came and Liz was appointed manager of the Observatory in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, which she ran for a more than a year before Wetherspoon announced the opening of the Poste, close to her home, last April.

"It was a new experience, working in a brand new pub," she said. "I was left to control most things about the place whic

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