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How to start a pub

Starting and running a pub seems like a dream job. But what is actually involved from a business owner perspective?

Key steps:

What does owning a pub business mean?

The pub industry is one most us are familiar with, which is one reason why many people are tempted try to start a pub. Eight out of ten of us count ourselves as pub-goers, and a significant percentage of people in the UK drink in a pub at least once a week.

No surprise then that the pub industry is big business; according to the British Beer & Pub Association there were 49,433 pubs in the UK in 2012, and it’s a market seeing some exciting changes. Pubs are becoming more ambitious, especially with the growth of pop-up bars, and customers become increasingly demanding, which can be healthy for profits.

In addition to this, the fact that over a billion pub meals are now served in the UK every year shows fewer people are now content just to go to the pub for a couple of pints of lager. So although the traditional pub is changing, pubs remain central to the British way of life. However, running a pub isn’t for the faint-hearted. If nothing else, it’s hard work.

John McNamara, chief executive of the British Innkeepers Institute (BII), says:

“In addition to requiring good people skills you will need to be extremely versatile as the job involves people management, stock management, financial management, catering, drinks knowledge, legal knowledge, marketing and customer service. The rewards, however, can be fantastic.”

As generations of retired footballers have found to their peril, being a pub owner requires commercial awareness and business knowledge. You’ll be managing a team of staff, so will also have to keep on top of employment law, management techniques and training.

You will also have to know about licensing laws, as well as health and safety and food hygiene.

If you dream of running your own pub, you probably already have an idea about what kind of pub you will be managing. With a greater variety of pubs than ever, your choice is whether yours will be a countryside-based local pub, a trendy, inner-city bar for a younger, night-time crowd, or one of the huge variety of businesses between these extremes.


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