How to Open a Pub — Ultimate guide
How to Open Your Own Pub
In the 1800s in the UK, “pubs” were actually known as public houses, locations where people would gather to drink, swap stories and gossip, and have a good time. Little has changed since then except for the name, which has been shortened to “pub”. The purpose and function of pubs is the same now as it was 200 years ago (with some records showing that the inception of these public houses might date back even further than that).
There is a reason why people frequent pubs as opposed to bars — and yes, there is a difference. Pub lovers praise the intimacy and the old-world interior decor that other establishments just can’t offer. People also go there to enjoy good food, which is sometimes specific to the pub’s country of origin (for instance, an Irish pub would serve typically Irish fare; an English pub would serve English fare, and so on). Lastly, when people find a good pub, they tend to stick with it and make it their regular hang out spot, so it allows them the opportunity to get to know the staff, as well.
Start with the Business Plan
Heading into a business without a suitable business plan is like getting in your car and driving without directions: it will be confusing and you won’t know where you are headed. For this reason, it is crucial to have a literal map of where your business is going. You have a vision of where you want to end up, now draft your business plan as your guide to get there.
Within your business plan, you will want to think about the following components:
- Business concept. What is your overall idea for the pub, and how will it set you apart from the others? What is the end goal in mind when it comes to the customer experience? When you figure out the “why”, it will bring you closer to the “how”.
- Branding. What style are you going for inside the restaurant? What is your logo? Your pub name? How will you make it so that they all fit together? Name and logo recognition are crucial to brand success. The logo you use on your menu and coasters, for instance, is the logo you will use throughout the pub and on any other takeaways people can get their hands on, such as business cards and flyers. Keep everything standard.
- Market overview. This is going to be a research-heavy component of the plan. How viable is the pub market right now, especially in your area? What are the potential strengths and threats to your establishment? What is the demand for a good pub, and are there already other pubs that are fulfilling that desire? If so, who is frequenting them? Examine the patrons in terms of their age group, where they come from (local vs. tourist), and if they’re there more for the food than the drinks and vice versa. This will give you an indication of what people want.
- Management. What role will you take on in this pub? Who will you need to employ, and what positions are you looking to fill?
- Cost Analysis. You will have start-up costs as well as recurring costs. Try to come up with a list of items that fall into either category. Eventually, you will have to tie all of these together to figure out how much you will be spending per month. This will, in turn, influence how much you charge for your menu items.
Get your Paperwork in Order
When it comes to pubs, there is quite a bit of legal paperwork that you will have to get in order. Much of it stems from the fact that there are extreme safety measures in place to ensure that your establishment remains clean and healthy. You will want to check with local business authorities and a business attorney to make sure you’ve completed everything, as your paperwork will include (but might not be limited to) the following:
- Business License, which is granted by the locality in which you intend to open your business.
- Food Service License, which permits you to handle food and serve it to customers.
- Liquor License. This goes without saying.
- Certificate of Occupancy, should you choose to buy the building you intend on opening your pub in. (Note that if you are leasing, then that is another set of paperwork.)
Register Your Business Entity
You will also have to register your business for tax purposes. There are a variety of classifications when it comes to registering, known as business entities. These business entities include:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company, or LLC
First, you should choose a name for your pub that you will register as your official business name. Be sure to check with your state and the federal registry to make yourself aware of other business names so as not to either duplicate or have a name that sounds too similar to another location. People look for authenticity, so if you are opening up an Irish-themed pub, for instance, try to choose a name that you think is representative of Irish culture.
Second, decide what kind of an entity you’d like to register as. Recall that an LLC, or a Limited Liability Company, is an entity which protects you as the individual. Should your pub be sued, your personal assets would be protected.
Third, register for all of the necessary taxes. You can do this easily by first applying for an EIN, or an Employer Identification Number through the IRS website. Then, be sure to register for the required state and federal taxes.
Again, it is always recommended that you work with a business attorney to ensure that all requirements are met.
Focus on the Food and Service
You’d be hard pressed to find a pub that does not serve food in the United States. That said, it is in your best interest to serve food that “fits” with your pub’s identity. If you are opening your pub in the United States, you might want to include menu items that are more typical to American bars, such as hamburgers, wings, fries, and the like. An Irish or English pub menu might feature items such as fish and chips, stews, cabbage, and sandwiches.
Additionally, the beverages you serve should be representative of the culture or country your pub is representing, too. This goes back to the ideas around branding that were mentioned in Step #1: your business identity should be standard across your materials, but also across your menu items.
Finally, if the service you provide to your customers is not top notch, it won’t matter if the food is delicious and the drink selections are stellar. Customers are coming to you for the experience, so your staff should reflect their expectations. How knowledgeable are they in the food and drink realm? Are they personable? Can they be expected to memorize your menu and drink offerings, as well as keep updated when you have specials? When looking to build a team, you will have to ask yourself these questions beforehand.
Other elements to consider that fall under the category of service (although they might not seem like it at first):
- Comfortable seating. Due to the social nature of the experience, pubs feature close stool seating or booth seats for people to enjoy a meal. Since you want them to spend time in your establishment, making sure the seating is comfortable will be key.
- The right music. No one enjoys shouting over loud music. The music you choose to play should only add to the vibe, not take away from it. If you want to instill an upbeat atmosphere, the music you play should be reflective of that. There’s also nothing wrong with playing music that is true to your pub’s identity, such as music from the U.K.
- Clean facilities. It might not sound important, but customers will certainly judge the cleanliness of your establishment by the standard to which you hold your restrooms. They do not want to use the facilities only to find that your bathrooms are unclean. Your customers will thus not feel clean themselves, and you can expect a complaint or a poor review to come your way. Take care to keep all areas where your customers will be clean and sterilized.
Spread the Word
You’ve done the research, established your entity, found your location, and built your team. The last step before cutting that ribbon is to market yourself. How are you going to let people know that you’re opening your doors? If you don’t mind word of mouth and going around on foot, a great way to advertise yourself is to hand out flyers throughout the community to let people know that you’re open for business. You might also consider taking out an ad in the local newspaper or working with some of the supermarkets in town and ask if you can hang up flyers there.
Social media can also be a vital tool in getting the word out about your pub. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow you to create a business profile where you can market your services, show off photos of your dishes and your menu, announce special discounts and promotions, and much more.
Customers will appreciate you investing in a clean website that is easy to navigate, clearly displays your menu, and also has pictures to accompany your dishes. Be sure to have an area where people can go in and leave reviews, too!