Competition for your drinkers and diners is strong and the default position of consumers is not to spend. Business costs are rising and it is very hard to know what to do.
Difficult though it may be, a little thinking time, possibly away from your pub, can be time well spent. Why do your customers come to your pub? Do they go away wanting to come back? Are your staff earning their keep? Could we be paying less for our sausages? Why is the gas bill so big? What promotions are we running for Christmas?
When was the last time you walked away from your pub with the resolution to have a bit of thinking time? All the big companies have networking get togethers and off-site planning meetings because, when approached in the right way, they produce results.
You may be able to find a training course of some sort that may involve other licensees or small business owners and many are free, or quite cheap. You can get good ideas from other people and new insights into certain aspects of business. I have even found Pubwatch meetings useful for this sort of networking.
Having found that bit of thinking and networking time, letting the others who work in the pub share your thoughts is crucial.
Involving your staff is time consuming, but it can be key to adding that extra bit of trade. You may have to do it in small nuggets of time and focus on just one thing. How can we get repeat custom? How can we get a bit more spend? Is there something we could be doing, like opening earlier to serve coffee, providing a venue for the fishing club AGM or having a charity fundraising night?
The big pubcos seem to think that tenants do not need any planning and management time. Without it they estimate running cost calculations at 35% of turnover, while the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) estimates 45%, including management time.
I recently met an ex-director of one of the larger breweries who had taken on a pub lease and he certainly felt that the ALMR figure was closer to the truth. However, with 35% as your cost base there is a bigger divisible balance for rental calculations and hence higher rents.
I’d argue that if you’re not allowed management staff, you will not have thinking, planning and management time, and you will very soon have no pub left to manage. Come to think of it, isn’t that what’s happening all over the country right now?