Want to get your pub business plan accepted? Read these expert tips


So, you’re feeling inspired to run your own pub?

Perhaps you’ve experienced warm beer and cold service and thought: ‘Isn’t this supposed to be the other way around?’

You reckon you’ve got the ideas, drive and ambition to make a go at running a successful pub.

Here’s the thing…

The only realistic chance you have of running a successful pub, is by writing a successful business plan.

And for it to be successful, it has to be outstanding. For 2 reasons:

  • To persuade the brewery, pub company or mortgage lender, that you are the most suitable candidate to run that property.
  • Because the success of your pub will depend on your business plan – it foresees and provides solutions for every reasonable eventuality.

To help you create a stand-out business plan which will boost your chances of owning a pub, I’m going to pick out some of the vital ingredients you MUST include.

Finally, I’ll share with you a collection of free pub business plan templates to get you started.

Essential elements of a successful pub business plan

Business plan tickIt’s time to master the essential elements of your business plan. Getting these parts right will massively boost your chances of being accepted as the tenant, lessee or freeholder of a pub.

The essential elements are:

      • The executive summary: summarising your business plan
      • The personal profile: demonstrating your suitability as a pub landlord
      • Premises details: showcasing your knowledge of the pub and it’s customers
      • Location knowledge: understanding the local area

The executive summary: summarising your business plan

The executive summary gives a broad overview of your pub business plan.

It picks out the vital ‘headline-grabbing’ elements of all the other sections.

For that reason, it’s usually written last.

Approach it like this… You’ve just landed a meeting with the person who decides whether or not you get to run the pub. You’ve got just a few minutes to convince them that you are the right person with the right plan to make the business a success.

A bland summary won’t do.

For that reason, make it a call to action that ignites the reader’s interest and compels them to read on.

You need to:

          • Demonstrate your knowledge about the pub, its customers and the surrounding area.
          • Explain how you will make it a success in practical terms.
          • Increase the power of your summary by adding key figures and factual details, including financial projections.
          • Make all points logical, factual and well-reasoned.

Want to see a successful real-life Executive Summary? Take a look at this one for The Bull in Great Milton.

A passionate group of locals proposed to turn an Oxfordshire pub – long owned by a major brewery – into an independent co-operative pub. And they succeeded!

The personal profile: demonstrating your suitability as a pub landlord

Business plan bullseyeThis is your opportunity to demonstrate what makes you the right person to run the pub.

So, detail the relevant qualifications, skills, work experience and knowledge you possess.

Even, if you’re planning to be running a pub for the first time, there should be things that make you a good candidate.

Do you have:

          • Proven business acumen?

          • Experience in business marketing?

          • Experience working in a pub, or supervising bars?

          • A background in food and drink?

          • Knowledge of the pub industry, hospitality or in event management?

          • A strong link to the local community?
          • Proof of your passion for the role?

Take a look through your CV and think hard about the personal qualities and past experience which make you a suitable person for running a pub.

If you possess verifiable figures on how you’ve improved turnover at a business, even better.

For further inspiration, Roslyn’s Accountant’s (who specialise in pub accountancy) have created an example of a prospective pub owner’s personal profile.

Premises details: showcasing your knowledge of the pub and it’s customers

The Angel pubYour business plan must include in-depth research about the particular pub you wish to run.

So, for this section you need to uncover every useful bit of information you can about the pub.

Here’s what you need to cover:

The pub’s facilities: List all the facilities in the pub, including:- kitchen equipment, pool tables, refrigerated cellars, event rooms etc.

If you list every room and facility the pub contains, then it will show off the exquisite detail of the knowledge you possess – and also give you an understanding of what the pub is likely to require.

For example, you want to establish a strong food offering in your pub, but the space and facilities are not there. In that case, you need to demonstrate how you will overcome that problem – and how much it will cost.

The pub’s customers and where they come from: For example, are they tourists or local residents? What is their demographic? Are they families? Post-work drinkers? Why is it they visit this particular pub? What is the average spend per customer?

Get talking to the customers, ask them pertinent questions about the pub and why they frequent it.

Even better, put together a questionnaire for customers, you can include their answers in your business plan. Aim for a minimum of 20 responses.

The pub’s recent history: Get access to the pub’s turnover and rent price – and illustrate how this has changed over time. Often, the pub companies or breweries who own the premises will be able to provide you this information. Alternatively, if it’s a freehold pub, a business agent may provide the same data.

The pub’s current identity: Identify what kind of pub it is right now. Is it a drinks-led pub? A local boozer? A gastro-pub? What does it mainly sell in terms of both food and drink?

The strengths and weaknesses of the pub: Having gathered all this information about the pub, you can summarise its strengths and weaknesses.

Think long and hard about it, and be honest. This is no place for hopeful thinking.

For every strength, detail how you will maximise it. For each weakness, demonstrate how you will overcome it.

You should also include whether you plan to run it as a tenancy, lease or freehold property.

Location knowledge: understanding the local area

Pub locationYou need to find out everything you can about your pub’s location and the surrounding environment.

Fortunately, we’ve written a really useful in-depth guide about how prospective publicans can get to know a pub’s catchment area in order to target the right customer.

In summary, you need to research the following:

  • Local housing: types of housing, rental values, density of housing in the area.

Why?: The data you uncover may influence your strategy for maximising custom. The information gives further clues about levels of affluence – and the number of residents you can target in your catchment area. Including these kind of figures proves you’re really serious.

How to find this information: The best source is a relevant council report. All local councils publish economic reports or executive summaries which cover the latest business and housing trends, and likely future patterns.

Type into Google the name of your local area and economic report, plus the year. You should be able to find the relevant data.


“Brighton economic report 2014”

Also, take a stroll around your local area to get a feel for what it’s like on the ground.

  • Demography: the people who live there, how much they earn and average age.

How to find this information: There are a number of useful websites. I particularly like CheckMyArea.com. Simply type in a postcode and you will be presented with a thorough analysis of the type of people who live in the area.

You’ll also find out what newspapers they read!

Again, I would also recommend walking the streets themselves to get a real feel for what the area is like.

  • Local businesses: the shops, cafes, restaurants, warehouses and other kinds of employment nearby.

How to find this information: The best way is take a stroll and note down what kind of businesses surround your pub.

  • Rival pubs: how many there are, how close to your pub, and the kind of customers they serve.

How to find this information: There’s only one way. Visit the pubs themselves. Sit down, have a pint and observe.

  • Development plans: find out any plans for new housing, road building projects or anything else that could potentially impact on your business.

How to find this information: Start buying the local newspapers, and in particular look out for the local business section. PLUS, check out the local economic report from the local council (see above section on local housing).

Once you’ve researched all this information, you can summarise all the strengths and weaknesses of your pub’s location. And also detail the opportunities and threats.

It’s the old-fashioned and time-tested SWOT analysis – an integral part of any business plan. By listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; you can then detail how you will exploit the opportunities and deal with the threats to your business.

Here’s some great guidance on how to perform a SWOT analysis for your pub business.

Free pub business plan templates 

Business plan inspiration

All this information will be far easier to implement if you’ve got business plan templates.

If you’re planning on renting or leasing a pub, then the good news is that most pub companies or breweries provide business templates, as standard. All you have to do is fill in the gaps.

Pub business plan template 1: Take a look at this pub business template from Manchester brewer Hydes.

It’s a little different if you’re hoping to run a freehold pub. In that case you may have to create the document yourself – or buy a professional template.

However, you can still use the templates provided by pub companies and breweries to help structure your own business plan.

Pub business plan template 2: Alternatively, there are numerous websites which offer professional templates. BPlans.co.uk offer a wide range of business plan examples, including some specifically for bars.

Highly recommended for guidance on how to write and structure your business plan.

Meanwhile, ‘wannabe’ freehold owners can also enlist the help of pub mortgage brokers like Sydney Phillips. Part of their service is to help pub buyers with the business plan itself.

A good example is this real-life case study of a client who was struggling to raise the funds for a pub – and how they helped resolve it by improving its forecasted profit-making potential.

It’s time to get started…

Those free business planning templates are an ideal way to get started with your pub business plan.

And by referring to our guidance along the way, it will ensure that it really stands out while also improving your chances of running a successful pub.

Here’s a surprising truth about writing and researching a business plan: It’s actually quite invigorating.

You’ll find that as you start developing your plan, you’ll come up with solutions to problems you never considered. You’ll also discover opportunities that were not previously apparent.

In short; you’ll start thinking like an entrepreneur.

Dr. Graeme Edwards, a medical consultant, once said: “It’s not the plan that matters, it’s the planning.”

Of course your plan DOES matter, but Dr. Edwards is right to emphasise how the actual process of planning is so vital.

So, why not start that process today?


Image of The Angel pub by Mark Hillary – CC


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