Based on interviews with a small sample of the UK’s top publicans carried out by the Good Pub Guide, the most common advice was taking time to identify the pub’s market – and matching its needs relentlessly – and always being ready to adapt to changing pressures.
“There is no point trying to compete against cheap supermarket deals or the lure of home cinema, so tempt customers in with something quite distinct,” said one landlord.
Other nuggets of advice included: guarantee consistently high standards, focus on one or two core areas to excel in and don’t be greedy with your pricing. The publicans agreed that over-pricing leads to a “vicious spiral of falling trade” and good food is essential if a pub is to have a least a chance of success.
Providing a warm welcome, quality service and employing the right staff were also among the top answers.
The Good Pub Guide 2014 joint editor Fiona Stapley said the most interesting finding was that the publicans were unanimous in being extremely positive about the future of British pubs.
“All top landlords have a firm and unshakeable belief that the trade will continue to be successful,” she said. “Pubs have been around for hundreds of years and hopefully the best pubs will continue.”
The landlords also predicted a trend away from large generally brewery-owned chains and instead favoured more diversity, with scope for professionalism in pub management.
“As one of them told us, the legal, fiscal and operational demands of running a pub are now so great that really there’s no room for the enthusiastic amateur,” the guide’s introduction stated.
The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland picked up this year's Pub of the Year award.
The Good Pub Guide 2014, edited by Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley, is now available, featuring over 4,700 pubs and 163 new entries.