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The dream of running your own pub almost certainly focuses heavily on a traditional country local with wooden beams, stone floors and a garden bursting with colour. The reality, particularly at entry-level for someone taking on their first tenancy, lease, or freehold, is more likely to involve a suburban back street local with shredded carpets, peeling wallpaper and a potholed patch of concrete with barely enough room to park a bike.

Refurbishing a pub almost always requires a compromise, whether through budgetary restraints, planning restrictions, or in the case of a tied pub, how much the owner is willing to invest. Nevertheless, simply making a few improvements in order to provide a pleasant, clean environment is likely to pay dividends in terms of encouraging more customers who are willing to stay longer and spend more.
Whose responsibility?

Whether for essential repairs or desired improvements, refurbishment is an area which leads to more conflict and bad feeling than almost any other area of the tied trade. Anyone living and working in a pub with shabby décor or a draughty saloon bar is likely to have a different idea of what constitutes an essential repair to the property manager of a pub company trying to keep to a planned maintenance schedule.

Broadly speaking, in a tenancy, day-to-day repairs are likely to be the responsibility of the tenant and any major works should be carried out by the owners. A leesee is likelyto have greater responsibility for repairs and refurbishment, both inside and out.

However, all agreements are different and it is essential to read the terms closely and take proper legal advice where necessary.
Benefits of good design

The pub industry today has a much clearer idea of how and why design can either help or hinder a pub’s performance, thanks to high levels of investment and research by both the pub operators and drink brand owners.

While a lone pub operator is not going to have access to the same design support as a major company such a JD Wetherspoon or UDV, it is possible to apply some of the same principles. Conor Kenny who has helped create pub designs for operators including Yeats Group and Chorión, believes there are some basics which apply almost universally when considering the design of a pub:

  • Understand your location
  • Know your target customer and know your competitor
  • Define your offer to suit the above
  • Create points of difference using elements such as food, drink and music
  • Maximise daytime trading
  • Stay ahead of trends and influences
  • Work on continually recruiting new customers – your existing customer base will inevitably decline and you need to replace lost customers
  • Keep up to date with design and leisure trends at home and abroadConstantly re-invest in the business
  • A book is judged by its cover – be aware of the exterior of the pub Kenny said: "You need to create an atmosphere which reflects all these points and seek professional advice where possible.

This article was published in YOUR BUSINESS magazine in 2002.

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