Many of those working within the Scottish on-trade will share the dream of one day being their own boss – and running their own pub, bar or restaurant.
And for anyone aspiring to take on their own premises there’s good news, as pub companies claim that, with the level of support available to lessees, there’s never been a better time to lease a pub.
Garry Fenton, operations director of Iona Pub Partnership, said in his view, “the leasehold market is robust in terms of investment levels, with positivity across the Iona estate”.
Echoing this view was Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, who said the pubco has had “some fantastically talented operators join us this year”.
That’s not to say the market isn’t changing and evolving, of course. Food has become an increasingly important part of the pub offer in recent years and, looking ahead, pub companies reckon this will continue to develop in 2017, becoming pivotal to many outlets’ success.
Gerry Carroll, chief executive of Hawthorn Leisure, said: “Pubs have to create more reasons to visit the pub and food will become ever more prevalent.
“As pubs improve their offer, we’ll see the market become more competitive and those who get it right will be the ones that rise to the top.”
So for those who are thinking of taking the next step in their trade career, what are the advantages to going down the leasehold route?
One big plus is a smaller initial outlay, according to pub companies.
And Mountstevens of Star Pubs & Bars reckons it’s the only realistic option available to first time operators who have minimal cash.
He said: “For those wanting to get their first foot on the pub ladder without massive funding behind them, it’s the only affordable way to get their own pub and provides all the support they need to branch out on their own in confidence for the first time.”
We look for operators who want a genuine partnership.
Taking a similar view, Fenton of Iona Pub Partnership argued that as well as the relatively low capital required for leasehold outlets, operators could stand to benefit from the group’s trade contacts and training programmes.
He said Iona has “well-established and strong relations” with the Tennent’s Training Academy which offers new operators training before their tenancy starts.
Other advantages to the leasehold route were cited by Manorview director, Jim Young.
He said access to good locations, no need to borrow, a good support infrastructure and a “platform to expand quickly” are some of the key benefits to leasing.
All that support is for nothing if the lessee isn’t the ‘right stuff’, however, and pub companies stressed the importance of a keen entrepreneurial mind in any potential licensee.
Fenton stressed that when looking for new lessees “the key thing for us is vision and passion to succeed”.
He added that in Iona’s experience, “someone with a strong work ethic, a great idea and passion to deliver” is vital.
Carroll said that, at Hawthorn, “we require operators to do their homework”.
And he added that the firm looks for operators “who want a genuine partnership”.
Mountstevens said that it’s important potential lessees do their research and ask themselves – ‘is this right for me?’
He said that operators should “have a clear idea of what sort of pub you want before proceeding”.
And he added that getting professional advice and not over committing on capital are important too.
But above all, he stressed three attributes that he believes prospective lesses must possess.
“New licensees need three key traits: a passion for pubs and a love of the environment, a good business head, and an understanding of service, standards and hospitality,” he said.