Business Plan for a Pub

by John Jones | Mar 09, 2023

Do you dream of being the landlord of your very own pub? If so, this short guide is for you. In this week’s blog, we discuss a number of areas you’ll need to consider before jumping in feet first. Be warned, running a pub is hard work and involves very long hours, but follow these simple concepts and you’ll be super-successful.

Product offer & menus

The term “product offer” can create a little puzzlement in the context of pubs, but be absolutely clear: what you do and what you want your pub to be is a product offer. From the concept through to the food and drink, the building, décor and staff, the product offer is critical. Customers must understand what you do, what you’re about and crucially what they can expect from an experience with you. It doesn’t matter whether it is “a traditional cozy pub with home-cooked food” or “the most vibrant sports pub in town”, you must be clear about your product offer (because if you’re not, how can the customer be expected to understand why they should want to go to your pub?). 

The same is true of the food and drink within the business. Take a good look at what could be offered and “how it’s done” before choosing a specific model. You’ll need to consider the other factors we mentioned above, such as the likely preferences of the local customer-base, the competitors’ offer and, frankly, what the business can stand. A pub with a fine dining restaurant serving gourmet food is a fantastic idea, but the costs will be high and – if the product offer doesn’t match the circumstances – leave you without customers. Basing your entire business model on something that you happen to like, rather than know works, leave too many variables to bite you. 

Key strengths/skills gaps

First off, why do you think you’ll be good at running a pub? Have ad deep look at yourself and decide what you’re good at, and be honest with yourself. Asking others to list or rate your competencies is a great idea, but you’ll need quite thick skin. Similarly, clearly identify what you’re not so good at and define the steps you’ll take to back-fill your skills gaps.

Organisational structure & staffing

Once you have this in black & white you should begin to work out an outline staff structure designed to support both you and the customers you will be serving. The areas to consider are:

- how will you find these staff?

- what will you need to pay?

- who will report to whom?

- what contingency factor will you need?

- how will you recognise and reward performance?

SWOT’s that?

You’ve found the pub of your dreams and are tempted to jump straight in. Before you do, just take a little time to conduct a SWOT analysis of the business. You’ll be glad you did, because the exercise is designed to identify the good, bad and ugly of the business once you’ve dispensed with your rose-tinted spectacles.

First off, what on earth is a SWOT analysis? Easy: it’s an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths. Most business textbooks will show a SWOT divided into four squares – one for each category – but honestly it doesn’t matter how you structure it, as long as you complete the exercise.

Think about absolutely everything, including the physical asset (buildings, fixtures, décor, fittings, outside space), competitors, menus, customers, reputation, technology, location and so on).

For example, thinking about the technology alone, it might look like this:

Strengths: Good internet connection and wi-fi network

Weaknesses: No online booking or reservation system

Opportunities: Introduce Favouritetable online booking and reservation system

Threats: None

Socio demographic factors

When seeking to take on a pub, there’s a temptation to fall in love with the building rather than its earning potential. A thatched coaching inn may look like the stuff of dreams, but if the demographics aren’t right then it will quickly become a money pit. Simply, you need to look carefully at the potential for obtaining business from the local-ish population and relate that to what you want to achieve. Factors to look at include the age of the population, disposable income and its propensity to go to the pub as a leisure activity.


Take a close look at your potential competition. What are their USPs and key product offers? Do they do it well? Are they successful? Why? Once you have answers to these questions, you can decide if there is enough room in the market for you, too. It could be that you can do more of the same, or use your competitor intelligence to inform a decision to do something completely different.


Last and by no means least, your business plan must have a financial plan which adds up. In the first instance it will be essential to obtain the financial accounts of the pub, preferably for at least the previous five years, so you can take a deep dive into its income, profit and loss profile. You’re looking for trends, excessive costs, unusual entries and anything which stands out. Consistency is also key, rather than seeing a roller-coaster of a financial picture – even if the profits are consistently low or, say, costs consistently high.

For your own financial forecast, it is important to be honest. Over-inflating the potential income and under-estimating the costs will surely cause - at best - huge disappointment after you take over. You’ll need to make a reasonably accurate prediction for income levels based on the current threshold plus your planned uplift; likewise it is vital to plot your costs, from wages through to ingredients, consumables, utilities, marketing, technology upgrades, building maintenance, fixtures, fittings and a plethora of other things.

Wrapping up

If all of the above sounds daunting, you’d be right! Creating a business plan for a pub requires you to think in advance about, well, everything. But being a publican is a hugely rewarding profession and one which is something quite special. You’re very often at the heart of the community; your customers often become your friends and the pub has a persona of its own. The trick is to do your homework first and get the business plan right. Do that and you’ll be onto a winner.

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