How to open a pub

7th September 2023 | Jack Oliver

The pub is a great British staple, a cherished “watering hole” you’ll find all across the UK. They’ve been the heart of communities for centuries, steeped in history and brimming with character. With over 27,000 pubs and bars in the UK as of 2023, it’s a competitive industry, but one offering unique opportunities. The beauty of pubs lies in their versatility, catering to diverse clientele and locations. From quaint village inns to bustling city centers where locals and professionals mingle, there’s always space for a pub with its own distinct charm. So, if you’re considering the exciting journey of how to open a pub, this guide can serve as your roadmap to success.

Choose the right location

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As previously mentioned, location is crucial for pubs, as you’ll need to consider factors that attract your target clientele. This forms a crucial part of how to open a pub successfully.

For example, what kind of customer base are you aiming for? What do you want the atmosphere to be like? Are you going for something food-led or are you looking to be somewhere’s number one spot for nightlife?

All these factors must be taken into consideration when picking the ideal spot. For example, if you’re aiming for a young audience, opening in a university town or city near a campus is a good way to ensure footfall.

On the other hand, if you’re going for a gastropub feel with a famous Sunday roast, perhaps somewhere more suburban would be a better option.

The property itself must also be suitable. This means it must have enough space for customers, staff, and facilities. You might need kitchen space or a large cellar, or perhaps a function room if you intend to run events. These factors must all be considered when picking a spot.

Price range is also a factor to consider, as your overheads will be reflected in how much your prices cost. Higher rents and business rates will need to be offset by more expensive products, so bear this in mind when choosing a location.

Read more: Top 5 small business startup tips.

Cater to your customers

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Before opening a pub, it’s important to know exactly the kind of establishment you intend to open.

It doesn’t matter what kind of pub you choose to open, but its important to cater to your customer base. This will have an impact on a number of factors, such as drink choice, decoration, and service type.

For example, a sports pub will most likely sell plenty of beer on tap, with the room full of televisions, and a large bar space to make light work of lots of orders coming over the counter.

In contrast, a food-led establishment may have more seated space, a quieter atmosphere, and perhaps facilities for kids if that’s what your going for.

Fit out your pub

Once you’ve secured your location, it’s time to get set up.

Choosing your furniture and interior decorations will define the pub’s character, while also ensuring it’s comfortable and welcoming for your customers.

However, understanding how to open a pub goes beyond aesthetics. You also need to equip yourself with the right tools for the job. This includes purchasing and installing essential appliances like fridges, glass washing machines, and coffee machines (if applicable).

If you plan to serve draft drinks, you’ll need additional equipment like kegs, coolers, and line cleaning facilities. These can take up significant space, so consideration of storage is crucial when choosing your location, as it will impact both functionality and your ability to offer certain beverages.

Finally, don’t forget about point-of-service (POS) devices. The number of POS systems you install will depend on your projected customer traffic and desired operation style. Some pubs with table service may choose to have a floor till for waiters to take orders on the go.

Remember, all these appliances can be costly and require professional installation, so thorough planning and budgeting are essential steps in understanding how to open a pub successfully.

Secure your licenses

You’ll need to secure a premises licence before you can even think about selling alcohol in a pub. Without this, you can’t open.

You must apply to your local council for a licence, who will decide whether or not your business can sell alcohol. They will consider a number of different factors, such as the location of your pub and its opening hours.

As well as a premises licence, you, and any managers or supervisors, will need to ensure you have a personal licence. It is against the law to sell alcohol at any business without a licence holder present. These are typically obtained through a short course, usually around £100.

Other licences to consider include music licences, food licences, and live sports licences, if relevant to your business.

Read more: How to register your business

Hire the right staff

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A pub is no good without staff to pour pints! Ensuring you’ve got a strong team is key to the success of your business.

Many young people will apply for pub jobs with little to no experience, so employ some staff who know their way around a bar and are happy to train others. They can help ensure new staff get up to speed and everything runs smoothly.

Pub staff should be friendly, charismatic, and high-energy, but it’s also helpful to have people around who can give a stern telling-off to problematic patrons – firm, but fair.

If your pub has a kitchen, hiring chefs is also something to take into consideration. You will want someone experienced to lead the kitchen, as they will likely be dictating the menu. For obvious reasons, you’ll want the food to taste good too!

Some pubs may need to hire door staff if they are expecting trouble, particularly at busy times and on the weekend, so this is something to consider.

Market your business

Before you open your doors, you should consider ways to generate pre-opening buzz and anticipation for your grand opening. This is a crucial step in understanding how to open a pub successfully.

Social media is a great tool for start-up businesses as you can reach a wide audience quickly. Try to make use of apps such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to drum up a buzz around your opening.

Word-of-mouth is an age old way to generate excitement for the opening of your pub, so let your friends and family know all about your business and get them to spread the word.

Once you’re open, it’s important to keep up your marketing efforts. If you have any events coming up or any deals on it helps to shout about it, and it’s a great way to ensure that people coming back.

Read more: How to advertise your business.

Being prepared when opening a pub can give you a head start to creating a successful business.

No advice is substitute for a good atmosphere and quality customer service, however! Ensuring an enjoyable experience for your customers is the best way to keep people coming back.

Ready to find the perfect spot for your pub? Check out retail units to let here.


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