PUBS can still thrive in the current economic downturn if they have the right people running them, it is said.
To combat the impact of rising costs, subdued consumer demand and fierce competition modern licensees need to be enterprising, business-minded, strong on customer service and full of bright ideas, says a pubs company director.
Mark Chapman, Yorkshire regional director for Punch Taverns, said the company was doing its utmost to help its leaseholders bring more customers through the door with training courses, loans to help refurbish premises and advice and support from locally-based relationship managers.
He added: “As a company we are only as successful as the people running the pubs, so we have to support them as much as we can and make sure the ‘offer’ is right.”
Punch has more than 50 leasehold pubs in Huddersfield and some 7,000 pubs across the country.
The pubs, which are run as independent businesses, range from town centre bars such as Isaacs on Cross Church Street to the revamped Coach and Horses at Honley.
Licensees joining the leasehold scheme attend a 10-day training course. It covers subjects such as legislation, marketing, health and safety, customer service and staffing issues.
Elaine Brown, Punch’s business relationship manager for Huddersfield, is in regular contact with licensees to discuss how trade is going and suggest ideas to boost business.
Publicans need to think beyond the weekly pub quiz and DJ nights, she said.
“Some pubs could attract more trade by altering opening hours or offering morning coffee to the local pensioners,” she said. “They could think about afternoon teas or hosting community events.”
The Coach and Horses at Honley is leafleting homes around the village following investment to turn it from a drinkers’ pub to a more upmarket bistro.
“You can’t just stick a poster in the window and hope that will do it,” said Ms Brown.
Isaacs, run by licensee Craig Isaacs, has recognised its place on the “Saturday night circuit” by investing in modern decor and ensuring it has plenty of bar staff to cut queuing.
He says: “Some licensees with TVs are resigning themselves to missing out because England have not qualified for the Euro 2008 football championship.
“More enterprising publicans are planning tapas nights for matches involving Spain or offers on Italian wines when Italy play.”
Ms Brown said community pubs needed to consider other services, such as offering wireless-free internet.
Mr Chapman said pubs were no longer guaranteed to attract customers as they did years ago.
“Drinkers’ pubs” had been dealt a hefty blow by the smoking ban and the accent now was on providing good- quality food and good customer service in welcoming surroundings.
“You hear that pubs are closing, but it is a matter of being commercially viable,” he said. “Some pubs are closed because the right people haven’t yet come along to run them.
“We see people building a pub business and selling it on and making a profit from it. There are opportunities to get money out of the business, but licensees have to be enterprising, just as any other business owners.”
Mr Chapman added: “The smoking ban has hit beer volumes, but pubs are offering more for wives and children.
“The publicans who prepared for this before the ban have changed their offering and are reporting consistent or growing sales for cider, wine, spirits and food.”
He said Punch leaseholders were making an average profit of £40,000 per pub, with weekly revenue running at an average of £20,000.
Said Mr Chapman: “Our 56 pubs in the Huddersfield area – through our leaseholders – are employing about 400 people, so we are generating quite a lot of employment. We are generating wealth and we are a significant presence in Huddersfield.”