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Need to know: starting a pub franchise

Need to know: starting a pub franchise

The value of pub franchising runs far beyond the profit margins, says Dave Price of Marston’s

The great British pub is an institution unlike any other. In quiet country villages, busy urban sprawls and everywhere in between, the pub is a place where a community can come together, relax and enjoy a drink.

Naturally, serving great beer is fundamental, but the modern local might equally be known as a good restaurant or the place to grab a quick coffee.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that predictions of cut-price supermarket alcohol sounding the pub’s death knell underestimated the ability of the industry to adapt. In fact, the average pub profit at Marston’s has doubled since 2012 - a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of pub operators.

The sector has proven its resilience, contending with the recession and the smoking ban, and there are now more ways to own your own pub than ever before.

What is pub franchising?

Marston’s was a pioneer of the pub franchise agreements, which emerged in the last decade, but support arrangements between brewers and tenants are much older. In one of the earliest forms of franchising, the 18th century saw brewers and publicans make exclusivity agreements in return for support against a wave of prescriptive Georgian legislation.

Skip forward 300 years and support is still at the heart of the franchise agreement. Franchising enables entrepreneurs to run their own thriving pub businesses, benefiting from a proven model and expert guidance.

In return for an initial investment and ongoing business fees, the franchisee retains a percentage of sales and quarterly profits, benefiting directly from their own hard work. Rent, utility bills, insurance and business rates are all part of the package, giving franchisees the opportunity to hit the ground running without worrying about complex outgoings.

It’s not just pubs that are changing, but the people who run them too. The level of support that comes with a franchise agreement means willing entrepreneurs from all backgrounds can turn their skills to the pub industry, with or without previous experience.

Marston’s prepares franchisees through the Fit for Franchise induction programme, alongside ongoing training and the support of a regional business development manager. We also actively encourage our network of franchisees to call on each other for advice, support and to share best practice.

Who is it for?

Many people might visit a pub and think about what they could do better, but the reality of running a pub is very different to the customer experience of sitting in one. First time franchisees vary from twenty-somethings looking to start a career, to entrepreneurs looking for a challenging new career direction.

There are young mothers, ex-forces personnel and couples looking to start a business together, some with pub experience and some without. Uniting this diverse group of entrepreneurs is a set of key attributes vital to running a successful pub business:

Determination. Operators need to be committed to making their pubs a success and ready for the challenges that come with being your own boss.

Business acumen. Franchise partners are encouraged to be entrepreneurial, developing innovative ideas to drive the success of their pub with our expert help and guidance.

Passion for the customer experience. Rising expectations mean franchisees need to be savvy, keeping up to date with industry trends to deliver a flawless experience that will turn the occasional visitor into a committed regular.

Leadership skills. It takes a whole team to run a successful pub, so the ability to motivate and lead a team is vital.

What can it offer?

As a business opportunity, pub franchising is a chance to join an exciting and fast paced sector with opportunities for expansion to multiple sites. As a lifestyle, running your own pub is more than just a job - for many of our franchisees, their pub is not only their business, but also their home.

Living above, as is often the case, yields obvious benefits, such as potential savings over renting accommodation elsewhere, and it also puts paid to lengthy commutes. No more traffic in the morning, unless it’s a queue for the bathroom.

It does take dedication to combine your home and business - for example, dealing with awkward customers may feel more personal - but it also provides an unparalleled opportunity to understand your local community. While franchisees benefit from a proven format and well loved products, pubs remain as individual as the people who run them.

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