Advice for prospective publicans

By Poppleston Allen partner James Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

Licensing hub: Poppleston Allen partner James Anderson's advice for perspective publicans (Credit: Getty/sturti)
Licensing hub: Poppleston Allen partner James Anderson's advice for perspective publicans (Credit: Getty/sturti)

Related tags Licensing Poppleston allen Legislation

I am looking today at some advice if you are taking on a pub whether tenanted, leased or indeed buying a freehold.

These are observations made after many years of being involved on both sides of the fence and seeing both success and failure.

I can remember the bad old days pre 2005, acting for “Greenhorns” entering the trade for the first time with a small amount of money and big dreams.

The fact that the pub may have been closed for 3 months, was in need of refurbishment and had a number of competitors nearby could all be overcome by loads of enthusiasm and the banner “under new management”; sadly 6 months later I would have been instructed by the next “new manager” following the failure of his predecessor.

The tips are as follows:

  • You cannot run a business on force of personality alone; yes “mine host (s)” is important but is not everything.
  • You cannot run a business because you are well known in the area and your family/ mates have promised to be regulars (this I have seen)
  • Do you have the technical knowledge to run a demanding business, and this includes the following:
  • Are you sufficiently motivated and physically and mentally fit to work long hours and deal with challenging situations involving members of the public?
  • Do you have sufficient business and accountancy acumen?
  • Do you know your target market?
  • Are you aware of all the costs including raw materials, food and drink and services?
  • What are your repairing obligations and what is the state of repairs generally?
  • Will you do food and if so, do you need a proper chef (expensive and in short supply), this would push the costs up.
  • Will you serve real ales, is there a cellar and are you trained to keep them properly, if not you will lose their “camra” crowd who will tell their associates to go elsewhere.
  • If your pub is isolated is there a large car park?
  • Are you media savvy? The internet in terms of website booking etc. is becoming more and more significant particularly with the younger generations.
  • Do instruct professionals.
  • Make sure a proper survey is done especially if the pub is old and looks somewhat dilapidated.
  • Will the Landlord be investing any money in the business?
  • What is the pub’s recent trading history in terms of sales?
  • What is the opposition like in terms of other food and drink establishments?
  • What is the nature economically of the area?
  • Have there been any issues in relation to the way the premises have previously been run? You can ask the local Authority if not the Seller/ Landlord.
  • Is there an external area? And can this be developed? This is becoming increasing significant, particularly in the warmer weather.


This is a brief summary and of course there are others but the above are key points but as one experienced business development manager has advised, in summary, it is important to take the emotion out of it and make a business decision. Yes, running a pub is a dream for many people but sadly it is also the downfall of many too.

Related topics Licensing Hub

Related news

Show more