What It Takes To Start A Successful Pub


Most of us have spent quite some time in and around pubs and bars. They are great places to go mid-morning for a coffee and some lunch, or for wine and a hot meal in the evenings. You might have casually let your mind wander into the ‘i’d love to own a pub’ space.

And, you’re not alone. Serving great food to people, chatting over the bar. It looks like a great way to make a living. And it is, but there is a lot of work that goes with it. Most of which people don’t realize.

So, if you are ready to take on a big adventure, then read on.


Choices, Choices

You have a few options when it comes to the premises, and it pays to know what they are before you go any further.

Freehold – You own the pub outright, and you are pretty much free to do as you see fit. You’ll need a mortgage just like if you buy any other building or home. However, if you own the building, you might be more likely to get better rates from suppliers – as you won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Leasehold – You will have the right to occupy the pub for a fixed term. It could be given to you by the pub owner, by the brewery, or just a normal landlord.

Tenancy – Just like renting a house, you will have a short-term period as the landlord of this pub. It can be up to 3 years long. However, if after a few months you don’t think it is a great fit, you won’t be able to sub-let the pub or leave. The contract might potentially come under the Landlord and Tenancy Act.

So think about how committed you are to this new career path.



If you haven’t been the head honcho at a pub before you might be in for a bit of a surprise. If you are working with one brewery, then you should request (and complete) all of the training possible.

This will give you a better grip on things like your accounting, changing barrels, how to deal with other suppliers, and even licensing. There are a few certificates and licenses you’ll need:

It is better that you follow the route for management training where possible.


Legal Matters

You will need to make sure both you and your pub are protected. You will have to think about a few different covers, but in general, a good insurance company can make sure that you have what you need. Here are a few of the options:

  • Buildings Insurance – for flooding, fires, and other damage
  • Public Liability Insurance – If someone where to trip or fall when on your premises this will help take care of it for you. And remember, intoxicated people, are typically more wobbly on their feet!
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance – If you have staff (and you probably will), then you should get this. If you are found to need it and haven’t taken out a policy, then you’ll get a hefty fine.

Most of the time, you can tailor make your policy so that you get the exact cover that you want, and need.



While it might be tempting to let your friend’s daughters help out for a few days a week, you will be better off hiring great staff.

The only what to know that they are good or bad is by giving them a trial or probationary period. In the early days, you are likely to find it harder to get a good feel for people.

After a while, hiring great staff will be easy. There are a growing number of recruitment companies who are dedicated to doing all the leg work in the catering and hospitality business too. So make use of them.


Suppliers & Stock

The stock you keep will draw in some crowds and see others going elsewhere. It is hard to cater to everyone, so instead focus on the type of place that you wish to run.

Most of the time, you will be required to purchase from one specific supplier, though. That doesn’t stop you having the ability to negotiate on prices and so on.

If you are free to order from who you like, then make sure you spend time with many different companies until you find the one that you want to go with.

Remember that the quality of what you sell will have an impact on your bottom line and your longevity.

Take into consideration people who don’t drink alcohol, children, food offerings, warm drinks, and find a balance that works for you.



Once you have been running your pub for a while, the chances are you are going to want to expand. You might want to take on new premises, or you might want to do something interesting onsite.

Typically now a lot of pubs will venture into creating their own microbreweries. If you do decide that you want to get into that side of things, you are going to have to consider things like keg logistics – getting your brew from one location to another in perfect condition.

Exploring a new venue is exciting too. You might opt to have a wine bar or a cocktail bar. By now you will have a good feel for who would make a great hire and who won’t so your expansion won’t be too hard in terms of staffing.

You’ll already have the qualifications, what will change is that you will find yourself needing to travel between two locations, or hiring a manager that you believe can do the job.



The public likes to be involved with the business that they drink at or buy from. You will want to be part of that conversation.

Bigger chains often come under fire, because although they are a big name, they often lack the personal touch and some quality control. But smaller owned businesses are different.

You have the scope to be adventurous and cater to your patrons in the best possible way. Of course, you will always encounter difficult people, but that is part and parcel of catering and hospitality.

Starting your own pub is a big adventure, and you will meet many people along the way, the key is to remember that your pub is an extension of you and should be treated with respect and care at all times.

Are you thinking about starting a pub?

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