Professional services

Never mind the paperwork, here's the way to get back to running the pub

By Fiona McLelland

- Last updated on GMT

Never mind the paperwork, here's the way to get back to running the pub

Related tags Pub Pub owners Insurance

As a pub owner, you want to get on with what you do best... running your pub. You don’t want to worry about paperwork and licensing laws, or struggling to keep on top of the books. We take a look at how professional service providers can help take the pressure off.


Year-end accounts, tax returns, bookkeeping, payroll, cashflow... some pub owners’ heads spin at their very mention. But it goes without saying that getting the financials right is vital to running a sustainable business.

A good accountant should do more than balance your books and keep you on the right side of HMRC, says Jeremy Oliver, partner at Garbutt + Elliott. An accountant is also there to add value to your business. The Yorkshire-based accountancy practice provides strategic business advice that helps clients in the hotel, pub and leisure sector to improve gross margins. For instance, Oliver says that pubs can often increase returns by improving stock control.

“I’m always stressing the importance of a proper till system with monthly stocktaking,” says Oliver. “Too many pubs don’t have full control of their stock. This affects their bottom line, especially with the rise of premium drinks such as craft beers, cocktails and premium soft drinks. These push up the value of the stock being held.”


The number of pubs in the UK is at its lowest for a decade, according to figures from CAMRA. But Simon Mydlowski, partner at law firm Gordons, says there are still plenty of opportunities for owners to expand their business.

“If you’re planning to increase the number of venues you run, it’s essential to form a relationship with a trusted law firm,” he advises. “Commercial property can be a minefield.”

Whether buying or renting, the business needs to get off on the right foot by identifying the right venue, then negotiating the best possible deal. “This is where the value of a professional adviser shines through,” says Mydlowski.

As well as property, a good law firm can help with employment law and HR matters; licensing law; borrowing and refinancing; and debt recovery. It will also provide corporate support when buying or selling companies or assets, and support wealth and business planning.


Choosing the right insurance package for your pub is essential, according to Andy Armstrong, underwriting manager at Morgan Richardson.

“Publicans face risks such as malicious damage, theft and business interruption,” says Armstrong. “These all need to be considered when looking for a business insurance policy that will protect their livelihoods and their homes.”

A specialist insurance broker to the licensed trade and retail sector, Morgan Richardson offers a ‘100% proof’ tailored policy that provides comprehensive protection for pubs.

Underinsuring a pub – intentionally or otherwise – is a common mistake to avoid when taking out a policy, says Armstrong.

“In the event of disaster, a publican needs to concentrate on getting the business back up to speed as quickly as possible,” explains Armstrong. “Underinsuring your buildings or trade contents could delay or even limit the indemnity insurer’s offer.”

In fact, underinsurance is one of the most common issues loss adjusters encounter when evaluating claims, says Katrina Curd, a director at Terry Osborne Insurance Services.

She warns: “Pubs might think they’re saving a few hundred pounds by underestimating the value of their contents. But it can mean losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in the event of a claim.”
She says small brokerages can provide a personal service to help a pub get the right policy that covers all risks.

“Your policy must reflect the nature of the services you offer – including entertainment, accommodation, outside bars, and so on. Make sure it can keep your business running and put you back in the position you were in prior to a claim.”

Energy switching

Utility bills are a pub’s third biggest cost, regardless of size or turnover, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. So the wrong energy contract or tariff can dramatically inflate a pub’s cost base.

But it’s a cost that’s often overlooked, says Neil O’Hara, founder and CEO of energy comparison website Energy Scanner.

“Pub owners don’t have time to shop around to find the best provider,” he explains. “Yet our research shows they can save an average of £1,422 a year by reviewing and switching their energy supply. That equates to around 40 chairs or bar stools.”

Energy Scanner’s technology will scan the market, find the best deal, then help a pub to switch – often in less than five minutes.

“There’s no need to wait for an email or phone call to complete further checks, which is the usual process when switching,” explains O’Hara.

Energy companies pay Energy Scanner a small fee for providing the service, something the company likes to be up front about.

“Transparency is part of our ethos,” says O’Hara. “The fee is the same for every supplier, from the ‘big six’ to niche providers. So our customers can be confident that we’re 100% impartial.”

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