It's time for pubcos to treat us as individuals

Related tags Rent review Leasehold estate

By Punch lessee Ian McKerracher The time comes in every leaseholder's life for a rent review, and mine has just happened. Or to be more precise, it...

By Punch lessee Ian McKerracher

The time comes in every leaseholder's life for a rent review, and mine has just happened. Or to be more precise, it nearly didn't.

Back in October I had written to the powers-that-be at my pubco requesting a meeting to discuss some outstanding issues. These were matters of some importance to me; the first concerning outstanding works to the external fabric of the building, a continuing battle to get long-overdue essential repairs and redecoration finished that has dragged on for nearly two years; the second, the vexed question of my current rent model.

Five months after writing I was still waiting for a meeting. It turns out that they believed my rent review was not due for another year, which just goes to show you that it is not just tenants who don't read their contracts.

When, eventually, the meeting happened there was, as they say, good news and bad. First the good news. The pubco had approved the outstanding works in full and, with any luck, by the time I next write, they should all be complete. It was announced with such relish I knew there was bad news to come.

And so it proved.

For months now I have been patiently and persistently making the case that existing rent models do not work for gastro pubs, such as mine.

They are based on assumptions that have little to do with locally-sourced fresh, seasonal produce, cooked by a professional kitchen brigade.

In other words, establishments that rely on these principles are likely to have wage costs a third higher than average, and a food GP percentage around five points worse than you would find in a well-run neighbourhood restaurant. Pubcos know that food provides one of the few areas of real growth still available to them, and they appear to be very good at saying they support and value their retailers who offer food that does not rely on frozen or pre-prepared, portion-controlled products that generally find their way to the table via a microwave.

However, when it comes to the crunch and an opportunity such as a rent review presents itself, it seems they are incapable of moving an inch. While I understand their need to both answer, and show, handsome growth to their shareholders and venture capitalists, how frustrating that despite all their sympathetic ears and well-meaning words, pubcos have still not grasped that they must treat retailers as individuals and demonstrate that they value their specific strengths. If they do not, I fear we will end up with a country full of pubs serving supermarket-style ready meals.

At least that will solve the problem of the current national shortage of chefs ­ we simply won't need them.

Property of the week

BERKSHIRE - RENOVATED PUB WITH FOUR LETTING BEDROOMS

- Leasehold

Village position close to Reading and Newbury Extensively renovated public house Bar, conservatory, snug and function room (80-90) Four en suite letting bedrooms Two bedroom owner/staff accommodation Part-covered trade garden...

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