How to get into the pub trade

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Running a pub: Research is key from the get go (Getty/ monkeybusinessimages)
Running a pub: Research is key from the get go (Getty/ monkeybusinessimages)

Related tags Fleurets Gastropub Freehouse Property Tenanted + leased Finance

Do you want to run a pub but don’t know where to start? Fleurets director and head of agency gives advice on how to go about getting into the sector.

Simon Hall spoke to The Morning Advertiser​ about the importance of making sure it's the trade for you, looking within your price limit and thinking about the sort of business you wanted to run.

Make sure it’s right:​ Hall advised provisional operators to make sure the trade was right for them rather than fall into the trap of ‘I like going in a pub; therefore, I’m going to run one.' 

“It's an all-consuming trade; rewarding, but unrelenting, so make sure it's the life for you,” he said. 

“Clearly, it's not just standing behind a bar serving a pint and chatting to customers. You've got to be a master of so many different elements, from employment law to marketing to promotion.” 

He also encouraged people thinking about a career change into the pub sector to gain experience working in a pub or bar.  

This would help them understand that running a pub was not just about bar work, but also about the long shift times and big commitments. “It’s a big step to take if you’re not 100% certain it’s the right lifestyle for you,” added Hall. 


What can you afford:​ “How much money you have dictates what route you go into, what options you have and what you start looking for,” said Hall.  

The most expensive will be freehold, then it might be a free-of-tie – an assignment of an existing business. Even a new letting that is either tied or free-of-tie, which has no premium involved, can still involve a £50,000 to £60,000 cost. 

Once you’d bought things like fixtures, fittings and stock and paid fees, you could stack up quite a bit of money, Hall continued. 

“The amount of money that you have determines where you will fit into and what options you have available.” 

All options – from big freehold hotels to letting bedrooms, to tied tenancies – could be viable and profitable businesses if you got the deal right, he believed. 

In terms with freeholds, maximum loan you can borrow is 60%. If you were able to borrow this much it would be because you were experienced and buying a proven business.  

This would mean you’d still need 50% to put down the rest of the money to buy the property, plus the add on costs, said Hall. 

“That’s quite a big capital contribution that you need in onboard funds,” he added. 


The type of operation: ​The next step was to consider what type of business you wanted to run; Hall continued. There were many types of operation to choose from – such as high-street late-night bars, community pubs, to countryside destination food-led sites. 

If you're looking for anything to do with food, you should know your way around the kitchen, Hall advised. He added: “It's a dangerous business going into the game and having to rely 100% on chefs. 

“If you can't step into the kitchen when a chef doesn't turn up or you can't recruit and one weekend somebody needs time off, then you're going to be in a difficult position from day one.” 

Prospective operators should research through looking at websites, deals and opportunities to get a flavour for what’s out there and what they could get for their money, Hall added. 

Part of this should come down to the personality of the operator he continued: “If you're dealing with a high street bar, it's going to be late nights and younger crowd, more entertainment and loud more music.  

“Whereas if you're looking for a village pub that’s totally based around food, you might be finished by nine o'clock at night. 

“It’s really a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong – there’s good businesses in all of them.” 


Do your research:​ It was important to seek professional advice, Hall continued. This could come from an accountant looking at accounts from a business you've seen, from a valuer looking at advice on purchasing to, to area managers who could advise on what the operation you're looking at was really about. 

Once you’d found a selection of sites, Hall said you should visit as customers at different times of day before shortlisting them. Then, get registered with the agent and start considering putting forward an offer. 

Related topics Professional Services & Utilities

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