Viewing Pubs, Restaurants & Bars etc.
Front of House and operational areas, this is the initial view that you see and creates the biggest impression.
1. Externally: Is it pleasing to the eye, does it look welcoming or can you make it look welcoming? If you don’t like it, prospective customers will not. The strange twist with this is, a scruffy superficial appearance may appeal to certain locals who make it their exclusive club, which is unlikely to be financially beneficial to you. The addition of flowers, window boxes, paint, good lighting and attractive signage can change a pub in a week, but make sure it will lend itself to do that.
2. Internally: Is it welcoming, comfortable, warm? Are the furniture, carpets and curtains of decent quality? Do they all need replacing? If they do make sure that you have the budget to do so. You can buy second hand from dealers who will also buy your old furniture, but beware of totally refitting without getting fixed price quotes.
3. The Bars. You need planning permission and approval from the licensing authority to move or change the shape of any bar. Unless you are closing for a period of time for a major refit, it pays to run the bar in its present position to understand its shortcomings and then apply to change it to suit your requirements.
4. The Beer Cellar, which is an integral part of the bar. Is it big enough, where is it positioned and how close to the bar is it? Brewers love to see a beer cellar miles away from the bar, purely because you waste so much beer on cleaning the pipes. It’s like the mustard on the side of the plate – if you don’t eat it you throw it away, therefore you sell more mustard. Beer is exactly the same, if you have a four pint line (the amount of static beer between the barrel and the pump) and you have fifteen lines, that’s £60.00 per week of beer being thrown away for a freehouse and up to £75.00 for a tied business. If you are doing a major refurbishment put the barrelled beer as close to the back of the bar as possible and ensure the beer fitter puts all the fittings on the wall nearest the bar, again they have a wonderful habit of putting the fittings on the opposite wall of the cellar to waste a further half pint per line. Finally if you are stuck with a large amount of beer wastage look into the automatic cleaning systems. Be very careful about the cheaper magnets and electronic systems that supposedly keep the yeast in suspension, they are probably fine if you are a high volume pub, but if you are not get some sort guaranteed get out clause if it does not perform to your satisfaction.
5. Kitchens are the key to any successful food operation. Check all the equipment so that you understand what the individual items are used for and its condition. This may sound a naïve statement on use, but a lot of catering equipment can have a lot of alternative uses in a small or lightly equipped kitchen. You will find that like buying a second hand car, used catering equipment will break down at the most inconvenient time, until you come to terms with its shortcomings. Always have an electrical testing screwdriver, electrical tape, pliers and a large stock of fuses close by. Crockery and cutlery are frequently ill matched and cracked. Before you exchange contracts take a trip to Stoke on Trent and visit Spode and Johnsons and any other china or porcelain manufacturer that has a seconds department. It can save you a fortune.
Check with the Local Public Health that they are happy with catering arrangements. Each establishment should be registered with them. They may insist that everyone does a current food and hygiene course, if they haven’t done one within the last three years.
It is always worth giving the food away on the first night with some complimentary drinks, if you are running a serious food operation, having up to three complimentary nights or subsidised food using a voucher say for £10 for two people. This gives you a chance to see how the staff work and the kitchen operates, if you seriously screw up and you are charging normal prices it will take you six months to get the customers back. Certainly ask for feed back and don’t be frightened to take note of it, however good you are, you are always learning.
6. Gardens: Ensure that all the equipment is in good condition and any suspect areas, like dodgy paths etc are made good and children need to be supervised by an adult wherever possible. They have a wonderful habit of falling over or off things, occasionally resulting in a claim or attempted claim on your insurance.
7. Car parks should be kept in good condition with disclaimer notices, not that they count for much if an accident occurs and you are taken to court. Putting warning notices in the garden and car park comes under due diligence, a favourite expression by Health and Safety.
8. Teams: Beware of pubs with a large number of teams (darts, skittles, football, Eucre etc). They can be very good business, but you need to find out, not from the vendor because he will be very economical with the truth, as to whether they are all genuine regulars or fair weather teams. Because of the pub league structure, pubs may only be allowed one or two teams in the league, consequently you often find that regulars from another pub or hotel are playing as your team. They may come in have one drink eat the free food and as soon as they have finished individually or as a team dash off to their own local, leaving you to clear up. The other alternative is that when the business changes hands that most of them move somewhere else. If you are relying on this as a core business you need to know about all of them. I have bought the occasional business with teams and the whole lot have gone when we have finally taken over, because the vendor told them that we were changing the whole method of operation. Avoid talking in too much detail about your plans for the business with the vendor, by all means discuss possibilities but do not be specific. If he is a mediocre operator and thinks that you will make a better job of running it than him he will tell all the regular customers that it is all going to change and they like the teams all go somewhere else.
The best thing to do is tell him that you are going to run it the same way as him and you can make up your own mind as to how you operate and whether the existing customers are the ones that you really want as your regulars.
9. Local Customers: A large number assume that they personally own the business and that they are the main source of income to the business, in some cases they are but in a lot of pubs they are not, this again depends on your business direction. If you are very food based with a busy lunch time or evening business they are not. Locals drink in the local pub but very few eat in there, you will be very lucky if your immediate locals eat with you regularly, maybe once in every four to six months.
Another strange anomaly: on your opening night, hopefully you will get loads of people in, the majority will tell you that this is their local. After the free food and drinks they vanish, some never to be seen again. Your real locals come in over the next two weeks, which is something I have failed to understand for years until recently. The previous night they were all in drinking themselves into oblivion, clearing up the cheap stock on the outgoing landlords last night. If the vendor has any sense it is better to sell all the stock at some sort of profit rather that get cost minus 5% with the stock at valuation. Consequently they all have hangovers and their wives are complaining about them going out two nights in a row.
10. Hotel Bedrooms, bathrooms, furnishings, heating and residents facilities, ensure that they are of a good standard and that there is sufficient reserve equipment to suit the business, also where the matching equipment can be bought and replaced. This applies to all crockery, cutlery and soft furnishings.
Having hopefully viewed dozens of businesses and consigned most to the bin, you will have been on a massive learning curve, which is essential to decide on the most promising type of business to suit your requirements. Every business is different and every person running it has a different perspective on each one. It is a highly personal business, until you reach enormous pubs or hotels which normally end up being run on a mass food operation basis and becomes a numbers game.
If you are fortunate enough to find a couple of businesses that come within your budget, you will need to study the accounts.
This is a useful extract out of The Common Sense Guide to Buying a Pub etc.
“The Common Sense Guide to Buying a Pub” is available to buy as an Ebook through www.smashwords.com and their associated outlets worldwide, priced at $5.99 or UK currency equivalent about £3.78, the reason that we have done this, is to hopefully access a larger audience before they commit to buying a pub and make them more streetwise and limit the failure rate in the UK with Pubs and Pub Leases.
The most valuable commodities you have when running a business are time and money, if this ebook’s information saves you both, the cost of the ebook is minimal.