What is it about the Great British Pub?
I sit here thinking about the past and contemplating the future.
You see, I have spent almost my entire woking life in the trade - I have a while to go yet to be fair - nigh on 25 years in a variety of roles. From my backpacking days ‘can you cook…Of course i can cook’ first job in a London pub all those years ago to my most recent role as Retail Director in a small regional brewery/ pub co…and everything in between.
And across all these years, in different countries and as the employer and the employee I never cease to be amazed by the number of people I speak to whose ambition it is to exit real life and take on a pub or a hospitality business of one sort or another. The reasons vary but yet are all the same.
I have interviewed countless aspiring publicans and spoken to even more on a night out and everyone can do it better than their local’s gaffer. Each has a grand idea, each has ideas of grandiose. But very few have been able to make the distinction between an income, a business and a lifestyle. And there is a distinction, as many will attest.
I think broadly the trade attracts those of a sociable nature. That makes sense, it is after all hospitality and being hospitable is pretty important. Right? So on the ‘recruit for personality, train for skills’ premise why do so many fail?
Lets start with the pub co’s. Really easy to blame them. Faceless suits running a business. How dare they. How dare they work on the supply and demand principle. How dare they write a pretty unambiguous contract which spells out who does what and at what price. How dare they chase non payers for sums due. They’re not perfect by any means but its too easy to land this one at their feet.
I know, lets blame the energy companies, suppliers, business rates. Lets blame the weather. The traffic even.
Or. We could blame the poor publican (this is my disclaimer bit…I have been a publican so I am allowed to say this). With a burning desire to run their own business the pub trade represents a really easy way in to self employment. And like lemmings they come. Blinded by the social side of the bar opinions on what it takes to run a pub. Completely oblivious in most cases to the early morning and the late nights, the dramas that unfold in a blink of an eye, the nuances of marketing, the importance of appearances and oblivious to the phlegmatic approach to decision making when the chips are down. And then to solve a completely different set of the same problems all over again tomorrow.
And therein lies the problem. The pub code, the pub owning companies, PEAT etc.cannot prepare a new entrant to the trade for what actually happens when you run a pub. They don’t have to. They don’t have the time and often they don’t have the knowledge. And quite frankly its not their job. Maybe it should be, maybe it would be in their interest. Happy to argue it.
But yet they still come, with pockets full of pay offs and redundancies, blinded by their self belief. And often to the slaughter they go, advised by the punters, who can run their pub better than they can. What is it about the Great British Pub?