Friday 12 January 2024

Best of Luck with That One

Hot on the heels of me writing about the difficulties some pubs are facing, causing them to operate on reduced hours, I read with a degree of astonishment that the number of applicants to run pubs is running rather high at the turn of the year.  It seems January is the peak time for this optimistic attitude, with, according to the good old Morning Advertiser, numbers up by over 50%.  As the MA puts it,“New year, new me.

"So often the cry of someone who managed to survive the previous 365 days despite facing hammer blows all the way, with the intention of reversing such misfortunes in the time it will take for the Earth to revolve around the sun again."

Well, it may well take longer than that if the current difficulties facing the trade are anything to go by, and while it is good to see prospective pub operators - both buyers and sellers - looking on the bright side, it would seem to this writer that it somewhat flies in the face of how the economy is faring now.  Of course, good sites and pubs - and there are some - will always attract interest, but I wonder just how much of this activity is at the wet lead end of things, and how much is in the more deprived areas of the country.  

The companies quoted are Admiral Taverns, Marstons, Greene King and Star Inns and Bars (aka Heineken), who are particularly keen to emphasise that around £4000 can get you started.  Heineken are also happy to say their new model means less risk (for them). How do they do this? Easy. They tell the MA that they buy all the products and set all the prices.  That's all right then, isn't it?

If you feel inspired, the article is here. Don't all rush at once after reading it.

The Morning Advertiser is always worth a read, though you have to register after two articles.

I notice, too, that Stonegate Pub Company with 4500 pubs and 19,000 workers is seeking to refinance £2.5 billion worth of debt. Pub companies are always a worry.


No need to rush said...

On the Admiral Taverns website they have the following numbers available.

To Let 336
For Sale 25
Operator Managed 30
Special Offers 51
Total 442

Curmudgeon said...

If you take on a franchise-type agreement with a major pubco, you're not going to make a mint, but you get a roof over your head and your utility bills paid, which has its attractions in the current climate.

Tears in Tadcaster said...

It's probably all the pub staff that are recently made redundant or about to be.

Or the Brew Doggers who have got a pay cut from Captain Jim.

Times tis ill they are my boy.

TheWickingMan said...

For remote rural pubs, I can't see how they can survive unless they're family run and living over the shop. As my local landlord says, I might as well open if I'm here because nobody comes in if the door's shut. I love to see the pub bursting at the seams, but sometimes a few people can also give a great time and joyous chats.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

My local is a Stonegate.It's been open since the 1700s.
The last tenant - a French woman - was a disaster. She had no idea what the function of a pub is but then she's from France and their bars are uniformly dreadful.
A couple in their 30s who had turned a nearby estate dive pub into a thriving community hub took it on a couple of years back.It's been a huge success.
Constantly-changing taps from the Stonegate range which are mostly good.
Good pub grub at decent prices - homemade pies,mash/chips,peas and a pint for £15 on Tuesdays.
Two steak dinners £30 on a Wednesdays.
Huge Sunday roasts £15.95.
They turn over five grand on a good day.
They're young, keen and work incredibly hard to run two pubs ( it was four ).
They don't always get it right but generally effort really does equal reward in the pub game.
Mind you, it's a wealthy West Country town so you'd have to be fairly useless not to make a success of it.
Unless you're running the pub at the other end of town that has shite ale, crappy lowest common denominator food and a tenant with an attitude.
I'm constantly amazed how many people in hospitality are inhospitable.

Anonymous said...

The pub trade is awash with inexperienced licensees, they don't have to be French not to know what they are doing with a pub, and that's because the hegemony of the big business hedge fund backed tied pubcos over the last 30 odd years has starved sector of investment at every level. We've now got a national estate of chronically run down bricks and mortar with publicans who are chronically under resourced and lacking the experience to operate very complex highly demanding businesses... Without root and branch overhaul of the ownership and operational model of the British pub at scale it's only going to be getting worse

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that anonymity. I'm J Mark Dodds FRSA. I did try to get my registered profile to post but it got lost in the posting

Anonymous said...

You don't even have to know anything about running a business. Job done. J Mark Dodds FRSA.

Cooking Lager said...

Country never runs out of fools and their money begging to be parted.

The thing is, many people have a romantic view of pubs created by their own use of them as customers. It’s a nice dream to sit in a pub and think of playing mine host, sacking off a possibly unfulfilling career you've grown tired of and thinking you can turn a recreational activity into a living.

Most of us, though, see sense, and keep our hard earned. Some blow it all on a few years of a dream, which all too often turns sour.

But you know, you can't take it with you. Who are the happiest in the end? those that played it safe or those that took a gamble?

Those able to afford to put the heating on, in retirement, probs, tho.

The rise of micro pubs in the main is I think a fulfilment of this dream, with low input costs, and without a capricious pub co. You're looking at 500k-1m to go into a fairly modest freehold pub. A lease on a former shop and 20k of a bare wood refurb into a small bar is less of a risk.

I'd be sceptical of the lower input costs of these offers. Read the small print. You’re dealing with sharks. I’d bet a pint of Timbos Doom Bar when it all goes tits ups, you’re on the hook for more than 4k. It may be 4k down on the nose but you’re liabilities are a tad more than that when the bailiffs turf you out.

Even with, pub co's offering even lower input costs, you're running a restricted business with supply arrangements that force you to sell the same beer as Spoons for twice the price. The freedom to carve a niche out, is the appeal of an independent bar. To fail on your own terms, not the terms of a pub company.

Tandleman said...

No worries Mark
Wise words. My own hobby horse is that the Beer Orders took a largely debt free industry into severe debt in no time after implementation and uneconomic
businesses over the subsequent decades

Anonymous said...

Clearly so Cookie. These offers rely, like most offers on gullible mugs. Not sayy it can't be done. But winning the lottery can clearly be done. But odds on it won't be you.

Tandleman said...

That was me. Btw.

retiredmartin said...

Excellent contribution from Cookie, as always.

Interesting to see Sam Smiths publicans still come and go at an alarming rate, the pleasant couple at Sheffield's city centre hardly lasting 6 months.

Stafford Paul said...

Craft Union seem to be about the busiest pubs nowadays.
Open from 10am with cheerful staff and well known brands, usually including cask beer at about £2.55 a pint, and no need for coffee or menus seems to be just what many people want.