I'd like to run my own food-led pub

16 February 2006
I'd like to run my own food-led pub

I think I have what it takes to run my own food-led pub but have been told it's not an easy life. How do I know if it really is for me before it's too late?

The solutions

Carl May, Catered4 The fact that you're asking the question is a great start. Too many people rush on in headfirst then start to realise things aren't as easy as they had first imagined.

I'm assuming you've arranged the suitable finance and haven't overstretched yourself. Many start-ups fail because of insufficient cash-flow.

You've probably thought long and hard about the reasons for your move, but have you included the negative aspects that can be a major contributing factor to possible failure?

  • Little or no time away from the business. Unlike many careers, ours doesn't clock off at 5pm.
  • Can you manage staff as well as your business? Great people-management is one of the keys to success.
  • Have you ever worked in a similar business? Try to get some hands-on experience in a similar style outlet.
  • Can you multitask? You need to be able to wear many hats and stay cheerful in all of them.
  • How good is your product knowledge? Undertake some relevant training and stay within your limitations.
  • Know the law. Be aware of your legal responsibilities.

The social repercussions can be severe if you haven't discussed it fully with your partner.

If you're not working together, be aware of the totally different timescales you could
be working to.

If you are working together, make some free time for yourselves.

Over the past years I've saved many clients from making expensive mistakes with some sound, experience-based advice.

If you're starting a new life, don't be embarrassed about asking for help - it's certainly wiser to plan than it is to fail.


Chris Morton, Chris Morton Associates The obvious answer to the question is to find an existing food-led pub owner and work with them for a short time to see what the job entails and whether it's what you really want to do. Make sure the pub you work in mirrors the type you want to run.

City-centre pubs are very different from rural ones in terms of working pressures and management requirements. The demands of small pubs where you may be involved in almost every task are also very different from those where you'll be more responsible for management and control. So choose your trial house carefully.

You don't state whether you're looking to buy, or just run, a pub. I'm assuming the former, as you would need experience to persuade an owner to entrust his premises to you.

So, apart from gaining direct experience, you need to consider:

  • Your longer-term personal objectives and how this change will enable you to meet them.
  • Where you and your family will live, and the impact of your lifestyle change on them.
  • What role you intend to play in the new business and how you'll balance your weaknesses.
  • Whether you're really prepared to work the hours required - sometimes seven days a week - while remaining sociable and approachable?
  • Are you prepared, and confident enough, to undertake or monitor every element of the business, including customer relations, staff recruitment, control and discipline, food safety monitoring, stock and cash control, accounting, marketing, menu planning and premise maintenance?
  • Are you prepared to put your business before almost every other interest in your life almost all of the time? If not, I suggest you look elsewhere.


Charles Trevor Roper, Coaching to Success
Do you have experience of running a business in the licensed trade? The vision of the affable host hides the fact that you need skills and experience to run your own business in a very competitive industry.

You'll need to understand business planning, budgeting, marketing, health and safety, accounts, personnel and licensing law. OK, there's a lot of information out there, and plenty of people able to help you, but managers of new businesses are often past the point of no return before they seek help.

But you can learn all this, which makes the next three questions more important, as these are behavioural characteristics, and as such are very hard for you to change.

  • Can you manage people? You'll be paying a group of mainly part-time employees close to the minimum wage to offer your customers a great experience. You'll need great motivational management skills to achieve this.
  • Do you have the right personality? If you like a structured life - forget it! Even if you have great social skills, and are a fantastic mixer, this still may not be the life for you. When you meet other people socially, you're in control. When you're running a pub, your customers are in control, and you need to have a great desire to please other people.
  • Finally, and most important, do you have a vision of your successful pub? Before you start, you have to be able to visualise your successful business - see and feel the quality of the surroundings, service and food and drink. You need to be able to do this at whatever level you're pitching the business. You then need the skills detailed above to achieve this vision. If you don't have this vision, stay on the customer's side of the bar.


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