50 Crucial Tips from Pub Experts to Help Your Pub Thrive

We were there to take it all in and have gathered 50 top tips and insights from some of the biggest and most respected names in the hospitality sector to share with you. Hot off the press! Liberis’ very own Tim Kirk was speaking at the event too, discussing financial options available to publicans to help them drive their businesses and thrive. Session 1: Show me the money A guide to getting the investment you need by four financial experts.

Speaker: Tim Kirk, Operations Director, Liberis

#1. Low interest rates are making people look at the alternative finance options.

#2. Latest business surveys suggest that business owners still go to banks as their first port of call for business loans. I urge everyone to search for alternatives.

#3. Match yourself to the right funder. Pay back on your terms rather than the standard bank offering.

#4. Liberis is the S in SME. We offer small cash advances from £2k and specialise in seasonal cash flow and money to assist you in buying equipment.

#5. We can find information digitally through banks and bureaus which allows us to make a quick and accurate decision on who to lend to. Due diligence does not need to be a long or stressful process.

Speaker: Charlie McVeigh, Owner of successful pubco, Draft House

#6. From 1998 to 2006 we found it easy to borrow, but since then, certainly up until 2011, it has been a fruitless exercise talking to the banks.

#7. It’s easier to get funding from banks when you are bigger (e.g. 3 plus pubs) as it starts to get easier to borrow. It is a lot harder for a business with less pubs or even a freehold pub.

#8. Bank due diligence is expensive and a long process with people crawling over your business plan, plus accountants fees and so on.

#9. Lending from banks is a more in depth and painful process.

Speaker: Robbie Souter, Relationships Director, Barclays Bank

#10. You need a business model to back your applications.

Session 2: State of the nation

A keynote session discussing where pubs are as an industry. How has recent legalisation affected your business and what is the landscape for the year ahead? Keynote speakers gave a frank and honest analysis of the industry and where it’s heading.

Speaker: Kate Nichols, Chief Executive, The ALMR, a trade body representing the licensed hospitality sector

#11. As a sector we grew more than retail with 3.4% growth.

#12. We have doubled the number of apprenticeships in the last year in hospitality.

#13. Productivity is up even if the numbers of pubs operating in the UK are down.

#14. Smaller pubs are wet led (drinks). The larger pubs are food and footfall led.

#15. A 3% growth is predicted this year for our industry.

Speaker: Brian Whiting, MD, Whiting & Hammond, pub and restaurant group

#16. There is greater competition in the pub industry. You need to make sure you offer value for money and leverage what you do well.

#17. The pub industry is a career; we invest time and money in our staff to make them see what kind of a career in the industry someone can have. It’s increasingly more professional.

Speaker: Tom Stainer, Head of Communications, CAMRA, Campaign for Real Ale

#18. Staff training and investing is vital. The customer expects skilled staff.

Session 3: Go premium to pimp up your profits

Six industry leaders shared hints, tips and advice for operators to help them maximise profits with premium brands. The premise is that Pubcos need to pimp up their profits by injecting premium brands into their product mix. Consumers want innovative brands and tipples.

Speaker: Steve Carter, Sales & Marketing Director, Frobishers Juices Ltd

#19. Spending cash from a consumer point of view is difficult. If you give them a worthwhile experience they will spend more and repeat their custom.

#20. Invest your money wisely. It’s about the right product marketed the right way.

Speaker: Tim Foster, Co-owner & Head of Being Awesome, Yummy Pub Co

#21. The pub industry’s term ‘pick pocketing your customers’ references the practice of getting your customers into the pub and then encouraging them to upgrade and spend more to get the most from them.

#22. Make your team experts in a skill such as cocktail maker, barista etc. Being successful entails training up staff and continuing to invest in them.

#23. Give your employees responsibility and opportunity to express themselves in order to get the most from them. We allow our chefs to create our menus, work with them on ideas and the culture of the pub.

#24. Our staff are our biggest cost so we invest in them heavily to make sure they are working towards our growth.

Speaker: Steven Pike, MD, HospitalityGEM, a guest experience management company

#25. A good way to “pimp up your profits” is to pimp up your product, offer some value by adding some items to your beer or wine, e.g. free popcorn with your wine.

#26. Consumers want more for their money which means pubs need to be innovative and offer the experience and invest in what it is that they do differently. Speaker: Simon Stenning, Strategy Director, Allegra Foodservice, a market intelligence company

#27. Any pub can have a premium offering, it’s about matching it to your audience.

#28. Casual dining has expanded especially in the pub market. Why not add it to your product offering?

Speaker: James Chase, MD, Chase Distillery

#29. We spend our investments and funds on training our staff. We send them to the wine makers, the distillers and the product makers so that they can feel and breathe the product.

#30. If you are genuine with your offering , people will buy into your product.

#31. I suggest stocking a limited amount of a product e.g. Gin and Vodka, and selling it well then rotating it and selling a different selection. Smaller equates to better quality service.

Session 4: Refining the wine

Wine is becoming increasingly lucrative for pubs. Getting your wine list right can mean profitability and repeat custom.

Speaker: John Porter, Journalist & Director, ShielPorter Communications

#32. Statistics from CGA Strategy: Wine has had a huge growth spurt and is level with beer. Although craft beer and speciality coffees are taking some of the market and competition. Speaker: Dominic Hall, Wine Maker & National Account Manager, Boutinot Wines

#33. 66% of women drink wine compared to 62% of men and most of those women drink wine with food. So you need to match your wine to foods and also look at your labelling and how you promote the wine.

#34. We are not just a supplier; we can support in your business. Consult with us about your choices, your spend and tell us how business is going. It may be that spend is down so you need to swap the wine you sell to another that fits.

#35. Pubs and wine bars are seeing a cash margin on the bigger spend wines over GP.

Speaker: Louisa Fitzpatrick, Wine Sales Manager, St Austell Brewery

#36. Understand your market; what does your customer want to drink? In Cornwall we have a lot of seasonality. In the summer we have high spend visitors and not so much in the winter.

#37. In this industry staff turnover is high and work is seasonal. It means we do a lot of training between March and May and keep this up all year. It’s not a one off investment, it’s ongoing.

#38. If a member of staff recommends a product I will, 9 times out of 10, order that product.

#39. We work with family producers which builds a loyalty and a story behind the wine. We invite our customers to meet the wine makers and this increases loyalty and spend.

#40. English wines are a growing market especially in seasonal pubs along the coast or in tourist areas.

Speaker: Gerry Price, MD, The Inn Wineshop

#41. New starters to the business need to know about what they are selling. You need to ensure they are educated about the products.

#42. We have a wine shop as an up-sell venture. Selling the wine in the pub, then entering the shop and buying is an effortless transition and easy selling.

Session 5: The great talent show shortage debate

The best ways to recruit, inspire, retain and train the people who make your pub business.

Speaker: Anne Pierce MBE, CEO, The Springboard Charity, helping under 25s in life and education

#43. Generally, pub sector jobs are under promoted to universities and high education institutes. Most educated managers move towards hotels over pubs. This needs to change and be re-marketed.

Speaker: Lee Cash, Founder, Peach Pubs

#44. I would like people to see pubs and hospitality as a career not a job hop.

#45. Senior positions are generally stable and we have a good bunch of employees staying in their roles.

#46. Good management and chefs have a great salary and pay for less senior employees is improving.

Speaker: Dawn Redman, Founder & MD, Hospitality & Retail Recruitment

#47. There is a skill shortage of good quality people. People need to gain the experience and training.

#48. You are paid more in hospitality than in retail and the benefits out way those in retail (meals and tips for example).

#49. Pubs need to take on more apprenticeship schemes. Information about them is sparse and some do not understand the schemes, so do not implement them.

#50. Offer a career progression, a chance for the employees to see a career for themselves from the start.

N.B. These tips were collated on the day (19th February) and might not be verbatim. If you spot any errors, please let us know in the comments. If you’re thinking about applying for a business cash advance to make improvements to your pub business, please feel free to get in touch to discuss your options.

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Liberis is a responsible financial provider. Liberis does not offer 'short-term loans'. The minimum expected duration of a Business Cash Advance is 120 days / 4 months and typical expected durations are 6-12 months. These business financing products are not consumer loans.