Pub companies contacted by SLTN said a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to leasehold agreements, added to comparatively low entry costs, have contributed to favourable conditions for lessees.
Martin Hodgson is recruitment and training manager at Trust Inns, which leases some 600 pubs in the UK, including 60 in Scotland.
While he acknowledged that general trading conditions remain tough, he said there’s no shortage of enquiries from people “from all walks of life” looking to run their own pub.
As long as we believe someone has a sound business plan and is right for the pub we will work with them.
“Leasing a pub has always provided a means of low-cost entry in to the pub industry,” he said.
“Of course some capital is always required, otherwise it can put too much pressure on their business, but we often find that the amount of finance we require in the initial stages is a lot less than people think.
“The additional advantages [of a pubco lease] are the ongoing business support provided by business development managers (BDMs).
“At Trust Inns each of our BDMs is responsible for no more than 45 pubs so they have time to spend with lessees and help them to develop their business.
“Lessees also receive marketing support, which is obviously unavailable to the free-trade operator.
“As long as we believe someone has a sound business plan and is right for the pub, we will work with them to enable them to get started.”
Hodgson advised would-be lessees to “do their homework” first by considering what their strengths are and the type and location of outlet they want to run.
“We also suggest they give us a call and talk to us,” he added.
“We can offer advice on all aspects of entering the industry, such as how to obtain a personal licence, how to prepare a business plan, etc.
“Starting any business for the first time can be challenging so Trust Inns provides newcomers with the opportunity of attending a number of one-day modular training courses covering a number of vital areas, such as pub profitability, marketing and cellar management.”
S&NPC has also ramped up the support its offering lessees.
The pubco, whose 1300-strong UK estate includes 155 outlets in Scotland, has upgraded its accounts and stocktaking package, Innside Track, to give lessees “tighter control of their business, flag up issues and opportunities early and convert more of their income to profit”.
Changes include a move to monthly rather than quarterly accounts, the inclusion of food in stocktaking and the benchmarking of reports against key performance indicators and lessees’ business plans.
New lessees are obliged to take up the package, which costs from £3600 a year, based on turnover.
Available to all S&NPC leaseholders, it aims to help licensees react quickly to changes in their business.
“It means lessees have the information at their fingertips, which is particularly important in the current climate,” said Chris Sladen, S&NPC’s head of business support.
“Lessees need to know the key figures – sales, GPs, expenses and break-even [figures].
“If there are any issues, early intervention is crucial rather than letting things fester.
“To me this is what the leased and tenanted area is all about – providing advice and support; a safety net. The lessee is their own boss but there is that safety net.
It’s a buyers’ market and there are some cracking pubs on offer.
“There’s no doubt it is a buyers’ market and there are some cracking pubs on offer.
“A leasehold offers low ingoing costs and is a great introduction to the trade.”
Colin Lamb, operations and training manager at the Tennent’s Training Academy in Glasgow, advised bartenders or managers who want to run their own business to consider obtaining additional qualifications.
“The amount of new people we get attending courses at the academy who are from tenancy or pub leasing companies has really shown us that pub leasing companies are offering far more opportunities to new tenants and offering support through training courses,” he said.
“Would-be operators need to ensure they set themselves apart from their competitors by ensuring that they understand their market fully and are able to deliver a consistent, excellent product and customer service levels.”