The Scottish trade may have faced some tough challenges in 2015, but that doesn’t seem to have shaken the pub companies’ faith in the future.
From root and branch refurbishments to estate expansions, pub firms have been directing a lot of attention towards the Scottish trade, and have said they plan to continue to going forward.
Chris Jowsey of Star Pubs & Bars said investment is key for pubs as market conditions and consumer expectations continue to change.
“Leasehold pubs, like freeholds, need to offer food and ensure the environment and service on offer are second-to-none to ensure they continue to attract customers and this means investment,” he said.
Broadening the appeal of pubs has been a focus of Star Pubs & Bars’ investment north of the border, according to Jowsey, who highlighted the pubco’s goal of boosting the food business in its venues.
“Star Pubs & Bars’ focus has been, and will continue to be, on attracting new customers for different occasions from breakfast through to dinner, offering food, coffee and wi-fi, and enabling pubs to show live sport or put on entertainment,” he said.
“Where possible refurbishments are introducing flexible zones to allow pubs to cater for private dining, parties and meetings or provide extra space at peak times.”
The importance of investing in the future of the on-trade was also flagged by Clive Chesser, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, the firm behind Belhaven Pubs, who said continued investment in pubs is “critical” to success, with the firm planning to spend across its estate in 2016.
“We have many significant investments planned in our tenanted and leased Belhaven pubs throughout Scotland, from refreshing the decor to major refurbishments, as well as helping our licensees bring to life their own ideas for innovation,” said Chesser.
“These projects will give these businesses an extra boost, helping operators to achieve another successful and profitable year.”
Admiral Taverns is also set to invest further in its Scottish estate.
Suzanne Smith, head of recruitment at the pubco, said the firm “remains committed to ensuring we have a great estate” north of the border.
“Over recent years we have tripled the amount of money we invested in our estate across the UK,” she said.
“Looking forward we will be continuing that momentum and Scotland will be an important area of investment focus with a sizeable spend planned for the estate in this region.”
To those considering taking on a lease with a pub firm, Smith said she would “advise you to think very carefully about which pub company you work with”.
“We welcome all potential licensees, regardless as to whether they have had trade experience or not,” said Smith.
“Great community pubs are at the heart of what we do and so the most important criteria for us is that licensees share our ethos.
“More often than not, our licensees live in the community in which the pub sits and know it well.”
Brian Davidson of Punch Taverns agreed that prospective lessees with a mind to embark on a new venture should “think it through carefully”, adding that operators should make sure they seek independent legal and financial advice.
“It’s a low-cost entry model for those looking to run their own business, and is also supported by capital investment from Punch, which means they get a great-looking pub to run,” he said.
“Inspiration is great, however it’s tough running your own business; therefore perspiration is a bit more important.
“It’s not something you can do as a hobby, but approached professionally and with hard work it can be hugely fulfilling.”
Jowsey echoed Davidson, and said that although “a love for pubs isn’t enough”, the combination of “wanting to ‘make money while having a business I love’” is something Star Pubs & Bars seeks in prospective lessees.
“Applicants need to demonstrate they are business-minded with the ability to maximise all the opportunities that our pubs provide,” he said.
Jowsey added that while one of the “great attractions” of a leased pub is the low-cost entry to the pub sector it offers, new lessees should still ensure they are prepared to make a financial commitment.
“Under-capitalisation is a major cause of business failure in all sectors and we believe that applicants need at least £10,000 in cash to get their business off to a successful start,” he said.